Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam, Netherlands-United Pan-Europe Communications N.V. (UPC) could use middleware from a vendor other than equity investor Microsoft Corp., UPC CEO Mark Schneider said last week.

"Microsoft has been slow to develop its middleware. That does not harm us," he said in a conference call with analysts, noting that UPC is still sticking to plans to launch digital service in the third quarter.

He added that the company-of which Microsoft owns almost 8 percent-also expects to introduce interactive-television services in the first or second quarter of next year.

"Were hoping Microsoft is ready, but if not, we'll use [a middleware vendor] that's appropriate," he said, mentioning Microsoft middleware rival Liberate Technologies.

Over the past 18 months, Microsoft has invested in a handful of international cable operators in an effort to secure platforms for its operating systems and other software.

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