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MS gains entry to Hong Kong ATM network

But there's probably more prestige than revenue to the deal

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Microsoft has announced a joint venture called Zoom with Hong Kong Telecom, but how much each side will be investing, and when there will be a service have not been formally announced. Gates was in Hong Kong for the launch. Hong Kong has the world's largest ATM network, so Microsoft is evidently keen to use it as a testing ground for services it expects to offer elsewhere. As a consequence, the return on investment is likely to be minimal or negative. Microsoft will be providing Windows NT and its Commercial Internet System. Microsoft's PR talking point will be the so-called Cyberport, which is described as "an international multimedia and information services centre" to encourage broadband services. The telecom company, a subsidiary of Cable & Wireless, is already the largest ISP in Hong Kong, and has 70 per cent of homes wired for broadband interactive TV, a service it began in March 1998. The deal should also be seen as a softener for Microsoft's ambitions in China. Gates will be in Shenzhen on Wednesday to announce deals with six Chinese computer companies, including a manufacturer of TVs that have video CD players (still popular there for karaoke) and Internet access. The Hong Kong stock market became excited for a time, but cooled when it was clear that even if interactive media profits increased 100-fold, it would scarcely impact the company's results. Allen Ma, CEO of the telco's Interactive Media Services, suggested that in terms of commercialisation "we are talking of months rather than years". ®

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