After years of work and mounting pressure from cable companies, Microsoft recently decided to scale back its plans for complicated TV set-top boxes and develop the type of simple, interactive program guide software that cable companies have been asking for all along. Microsoft announced the result of this effort--the Microsoft TV Interactive Program Guide (IPG)--Monday morning at the National Cable & Television Association (NCTA) convention in New Orleans. Although the new product represents a humbling experience for the company, Microsoft believes that this version of its TV software will finally take off.

"With the Microsoft TV IPG, we've brought renewed energy, focus and breadth to the Microsoft TV platform," said Moshe Lichtman, vice president of the Microsoft TV Division. "We've been working closely with our customers to create software from which they can derive the most value, both in leveraging their current installed base of set-top boxes and as they begin to provide more advanced \[interactive TV\] services. With Microsoft TV Advanced and now the Microsoft TV IPG, we are providing deployable solutions that support the range of set-top boxes from the most basic digital boxes to the most advanced."

Cable companies can deploy the Microsoft TV IPG on existing set-top boxes, dramatically lowering their costs. The software lets users search for TV programs by name, show type, or channel, and obtain more information about programs than they can with most current cable TV systems.