Microsoft has been granted an interactive TV patent that pauses the show while the viewer follows an embedded hyperlink, such as a URL.
And so ends a 12-year battle. Incredibly, Microsoft originally filed for the patent in March 1993, and the language reflects its age: "The Internet has recently exploded in popularity," we learn, and that, "a computer user with a modem can get on-line."
In its current form, this archaic patent appears not be of immediate use to Microsoft. Patent #6,973,669 describes an invention which uses the vertical blanking interval (VBI) of analog broadcasts, a technology for which Intel once had high hopes. Intercasting delivered data at around 10kbit/s. As modern digital TV streams at 19Mbit/s per channel, there's little shortage of bandwidth.
But read on, and it's apparent that it's the "pause" that Microsoft seeks to exploit.
Describing how a broadcast could add features to a sports game broadcast, the applicant writes:
"Hyper-links to Internet sport pages or chat rooms can be included and the information displayed in a split screen along with the game, or the viewing of the game can be paused at the viewer's discretion for any length of time. Even with these arbitrary pauses the present invention(s) permits the viewer to watch the entire game, no matter when and how many viewing pauses are taken."
In another possible embodiment, Microsoft suggests learning videos with embedded URLs.
The patent covers 35 claims in all.
Last year Bill Gates predicted that the revenue model for traditional broadcast TV would wither, and offered broadcasters his own, predictably attention-deficient vision of the future: a split screen with one side containing nothing but Google-style text advertisements.
Despite scepticism over its response times, and suggestions that its offering is six times more expensive than its rivals, Microsoft has snagged BT, SBC and Swisscom as customers for its interactive TV offering. (See MS's IPTV strategy in tatters for details and MS IPTV is lovely, says MS IPTV chap for a robust defense.)
Thanks to TheoDP for the tip - and have a gander at it here. ®