Microsoft and Sony go digital together

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IN AN important signpost to the future, Sony and Microsoft yesterday announced plans to join forces on developing digital technology to wed the personal computer with the television and other home electronics.

The two giants have agreed to cross-license technology they hope will pave the way for the traditional television to work in tandem with the PC. The collaboration could eventually lead to a new generation of televisions capable simultaneously of showing TV programming and accessing the Internet.

"The time has come for the personal computer industry and the audio-visual industry to shake hands," said Sony's president, Nobuyuki Idei. "The co-operation between Microsoft and Sony will play a key role in making this happen."

The companies declined specifically to name products they might jointly develop. They said, however, that they would cross-license one another's technologies. Sony will license Microsoft's Windows CE operating system for hand-held computers, while Microsoft will license Sony's new home networking module, which boasts a new electronic wiring standard.

The announcement fits directly with Bill Gates' new focus on integrating TVs and PCs. He has invested heavily on TV cable networks in the US and in developing a set-top box that should enable a mass market of consumers to access the World Wide Web with their TV remote control.