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MS plans stakes in ten key Euro companies

And is lobbying to get DSL implemented faster. Sometimes you find yourself applauding Microsoft...

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Microsoft has a target list of ten European communications companies it wants to put money into, according to company European Internet director Georges Nahon. The list's existence, together with some clues about who the companies might be, was revealed in an interview published yesterday by Dow Jones Newswires. Market size, location and reasonable numbers of existing subscribers are apparently important, so presumably this means Microsoft wants to pick off large cable TV operations in the larger countries first. It's done a pretty thorough job in the UK already, and is currently in a huddle with Bertelsmann and Deutsche Telekom in Germany. French and Italian operators should therefore prepare to receive emissaries. Microsoft is also looking for territories where there is a 'positive regulatory environment.' What this means isn't exactly clear, as Europe is at least theoretically subject to a single regulatory environment. The requirement could therefore be code for 'countries whose politicians aren't going to beat-up Microsoft.' Nahon says the investments will come in several stages, with a minority investment first. This is the stage we're at right now, although some are more minor than others. The objective is to give the cable outfits sufficient resources and incentives to roll out broadband data networks faster. Then later on Microsoft might increase its investment, or try to bring in other companies. Which is a pretty meaningless thing to say, really - Microsoft could do anything from taking total control to cashing its winnings and leaving, it would seem. Cable is the most important area right now, but Nahon's interest in doing something to encourage faster roll-out for DSL is worth noting. Investment doesn't seem to be the route Microsoft intends to take here, but he says the company has been talking to several operators about deploying DSL, and suggests developments in eight to 12 months. We'd guess both British Telecom and Deutsche Telecom as likely perpetrators, regulatory environments permitting. ®

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