Liberate, AT&T Wrap Trial

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Liberate Technologies Inc. recently competed a six-week field trial of its middleware platform on one of AT&T Broadband's cable systems in the Denver suburbs, AT&T and Liberate officials said.

The six-week trial, conducted with Motorola Broadband Communications Sector "DCT-5000" set-tops by several dozen AT&T Broadband employees, positions Liberate well in its middleware war against Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft cut a licensing deal with AT&T Broadband (then Tele-Communications Inc.) in 1998, but still hasn't conducted any U.S. trials, company officials said.

"It was a very successful trial," said Liberate vice president of product marketing Charlie Trischler.

AT&T Broadband spokeswoman Tracy Baumgartner confirmed the trial had been completed, but said the company wasn't prepared to discuss whether it would start a commercial deployment of Liberate on its advanced-digital platform.

Microsoft TV platform director of marketing Ed Graczyk downplayed the Liberate trial, and noted that the company expects to conduct a trial with AT&T some time this year.

"We've take a much different strategy from Liberate," Graczyk said. "We're not a small startup who is primarily driven by press releases. We're not taking an approach of doing a trial here, a trial there, to be able to announce a 'design win.'"

AT&T Broadband announced plans to conduct a trial with Liberate in September, after Microsoft disclosed some delays in integrating its software with the advanced digital set-tops.

To date, Motorola has shipped fewer than 500,000 DCT-5000 set-tops to AT&T and two other U.S. MSOs, said Bernadette Vernon, director of strategic marketing at the company's DigiCable unit. But she said she didn't know how many are actually deployed.

"Two other MSOs beyond AT&T are now in test modes, or preparing for pilot modes for the 5000," Vernon said.

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