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Microsoft Digs Its Teeth Into Entertainment

Microsoft Corp. made several key announcements Monday at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2006 conference in Las Vegas, cementing its place in broadcast industry.

Universal Pictures and Microsoft said they have collaborated on creating high-definition DVD discs using VC-1, the video compression standard recently approved by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and one of the mandatory codecs in the HD DVD specification.

Universal will tap iHD, which enables the entertainment company to enhance media content and build interactive features into new titles on DVDs. The launch of HD DVD players and titles last week in the U.S. represents the first broad market availability of high-definition optical media for consumers. Initial titles include "Serenity," "Doom," "Apollo 13," "The Bourne Supremacy," "U-571" and "Van Helsing."

With iHD, the studio will offer interactive menus without interrupting playback. Features now possible are user-defined bookmarks that stay with the title, picture-in-picture commentaries, and network access to download new features and HD movies trailers.

Microsoft will showcase features in the Windows Vista operating system also at NAB. A new set of application programming interfaces (APIs), called Media Foundation, will offer a "glitch-resilience architecture based on audio and video feedback" which gives higher priority to the processing infrastructure for streaming audio and video to ensure frames aren't dropped and playback isn't jittery, said Eric Schmidt, group product manager of Windows Media Technologies at Microsoft.

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