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Microsoft buys stake in minimalist interactive TV outfit

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Microsoft has taken a $30 million stake in an interactive cable TV outfit aiming at the impulse buy end of the market. The company, Wink, has a system that allows couch potatoes to view the ads then buy the products with the aid of nothing but their TV remote control. Is this the killer app interactive TV has been searching for? The break comes on halfway through the big movie, you feel you could use a pizza and a six-pack, the ad comes on and click… Wink can of course also be used for more elevated purposes. Aside from Wink-enabled ads, programming can be Wink-enabled so that you can get background information and more detail on request. The system is running in Japan, and on a relatively small scale in the US, with 120,000 customers projected to be expanded to 1.5 million in the next few months. Microsoft, as usual, will be working with Wink to develop common standards for interactive TV. Among Wink's other investors is the ubiquitous Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and the owner of a large quantity of US cable TV real estate. ®

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