Comcast, the largest cable operator in the country, said Monday it would no longer use Microsoft's TV guide software in Microsoft's own...

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Comcast, the largest cable operator in the country, said Monday it would no longer use Microsoft’s TV guide software in Microsoft’s own hometown.

For about two years, Comcast has relied on Microsoft to provide the digital-cable guide for subscribers in Washington state.

It represented Microsoft’s largest U.S. deployment of its TV Foundation Edition software, but Comcast said it will start to phase it out this summer in favor of GuideWorks, a guide it built with Gemstar and uses throughout the rest of the country.

“What we are looking for and the reason we are doing this is to get a consistency across the country, which will allow us to provide new services quicker,” said Steve Kipp, a Comcast spokesman.

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Comcast expects the new guide to launch in Spokane beginning June 5 and to roll out to the rest of digital-cable subscribers by early September.

Kipp said the look and feel of the guide may be slightly different, but the features will remain the same. Recordings and schedules that customers have made on the set-top box will automatically transfer.

Some of the new features that Comcast will start to roll out will involve its TV, high-speed Internet services and voice services. For instance, it envisions displaying the identity of a phone caller on the TV screen. For now, the newest feature that Seattle-area customers will notice is the ability to watch six channels on the screen at once.

Microsoft’s relationship with Comcast received a big boost in 1997, when it invested $1 billion in the Philadelphia-based company. It also invested in AT&T Broadband, which Comcast later acquired. Microsoft said a version of its Foundation software will continue to be used by Verizon in the U.S., and it’s popular in Latin America.

Ed Graczyk, director of marketing for Microsoft TV, said the company’s big television focus going forward will be on IPTV, which uses the Internet to deliver programming.

“When you look at the big picture and where the market is going, there’s a lot more momentum for us around IPTV. The market potential there is pretty tremendous,” Graczyk said.

Josh Bernoff, an analyst at Forrester, said Microsoft may have had a shot at getting Comcast to convert the rest of the country based on its experiences in Washington.

“In theory, there was a chance,” Bernoff said. “The whole idea is to see how well it worked compared to the alternatives, but I think once Comcast took control of the GuideWorks product from Gemstar, it was clear where they were putting their effort.”

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or

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