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AT&T rethinks M'soft set-top

After announcing grand plans for interactivity on its cable systems two years ago, AT&T's Broadband division has decided to deploy only those features that customers want most. What some want, according to company officials, is video-on-demand (VOD), interactivity to play games alone and stock tickers and weather data scrolled across the bottom of the screen.

The nation's largest cable operator has asked Microsoft, which had invested $5 billion to get its software deployed in as many as 10 million set-tops, to rethink its software strategy and develop a simpler interface with less functionality. It has also turned to Liberate Technologies to create applications like personal video recorders (PVR).

AT&T is now giving both companies "a broader canvas," said a spokeswoman. Instead of deploying the Motorola DCT-5000 in selected markets, AT&T will continue to build-out DCT-2000 boxes.

The company is also working with Motorola to develop "an enhanced basic set-top box," which would include more functionality than the DCT-2000 and integrate PVR features. A Motorola spokesman also said the two companies have discussed a mid-range box that "falls between the DCT-2000 and DCT-5000, in terms of internal capability." No time frame was given for when such a box would be available.