BT among those handling Xbox 360 IPTV

More on Gates' CES speech, inc. Halo 2 Vista clarity.

Commercial deployment of Xbox 360's IPTV service is being trialed with groups including BT and Deutsche Telekom - suggesting we won't be left behind as we were with Video Marketplace - while UNO will be among the games that Windows Vista users can play against their Xbox 360 counterparts, but Halo 2's functionality may be more limited.

Yes, with the curtain down on Bill Gates' rousing CES keynote, further details are emerging in press bulletins and background copy.

On the Vista front, Microsoft's showreel of compatible games (you can read more about the best in our recent Eye on '07: PC feature) will be matched, it says, by compatibility in hardware and other applications, with more than 1.5 million devices and more than 2,000 products to be Certified by 30th January.

Live - or "the Live games and entertainment network" as it now seems to be - will take proper shape on Vista this summer, and among the games confirmed for cross-platform support is UNO, with Shadowrun having been confirmed for such last May.

Microsoft's media alerts aren't quite explicit enough about Halo 2 for our liking though, merely saying that it "will enable gamers on Windows Vista to connect with their friends on Xbox 360 through the Live network". Could mean gaming, but could just reflect previous comments about seeing your friends and being able to communicate. That's also what the Halo 2 Vista FAQ maintains.

Elsewhere, our correspondent in Las Vegas also saw a PC version of Geometry Wars on the showreel, although cross-compatibility there is likely to be limited to leaderboards.

IPTV, meanwhile, set to launch at Christmas, will allow you to watch TV on Xbox 360 while chatting to friends, and to play on Xbox Live while recording a TV programme in the background, among other things. Microsoft promises "instant channel zapping, a rich and responsive user interface, video on demand with branded video-on-demand storefronts, digital video recording and high-definition television".

Its press literature says that commercial and trial deployments are under way with 16 companies, "including five of the world's largest service providers in 14 countries on four continents". Those "scale commercial deployments" include ones with BT Group in the UK, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, T-Online in France and Swisscom in Switzerland. AT&T is working with Microsoft in the US.

IPTV follows on from Microsoft's attempts to make Xbox 360 the centrepiece of high-definition on-demand TV and movie services in the living room, as well as an HD-DVD player. Video Marketplace launched in the US at Thanksgiving and has been a huge success, according to Microsoft, with more than 1000 hours of premium high- and standard-definition content available. It trotted out Comedy Central as a satisfied partner, and said Lionsgate will soon add content to the US-only service, including films like The Descent, Hard Candy and Requiem for a Dream.

For more of the headline-grabbing stuff in Gates' CES address, check in with our eyes-on report.

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