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M$ pays Madonna £0m for online gig

You scratch my back, I'll Webcast yours

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Microsoft is to pay pop star Madonna the grand sum of nothing to broadcast her upcoming UK gig over the Internet. You may have heard figures of £30 million, but as an M$ spokeswoman kindly pointed out, this figure is "equivalent media value". Which means that Microsoft will spend about £28 million advertising the gig and the rest making sure that it has the servers to cope.

Madonna gets no cash but then she will be featured in "6 continents, 33 countries, 17 languages, 210 million users". And she always was a bit of a media whore.

Want another PR angle? This will be the "biggest ever global net event". Norris McWhirter may even be at hand to record it for the Guinness Book of Records (actually, we made that bit up).

But of course the $64,000 question is: will we get anything more than some crackly music and distorted, blurred pictures. Well, d'you know what? We have to congratulate Microsoft for being open and honest about the webcast - perhaps it has learnt from previous over-hyped and under-performing Net events.

You'll need Windows Media Player of course. And "in a ground-breaking move", it will offer "near-DVD-quality stream at 700Kbps". Which is fantastic but then seeing as only three people in the UK have such a connection (we suspect one is Tony Blair), we won't be able to check up on this. Presumably this DVD quality will be DVD-quality on a teeny-weeny screen.

From here, a good breakdown of speeds is on offer: 300Kbps, 128, 80, 56 and (audio-only) 28.8Kbps. Of course, what will actually happen is that you'll get a max of 33.3Kbps, the music will come in jumps and starts and the picture will be unviewable - sort of an allegory for modern life. (MS' advice is given below.) If you're still interested, then go here - www.msn.co.uk/madonna. The concert's on 28 November in Brixton. But to be nice for a second, there is some real effort (we hesitate to use the word "pioneering") going on here. That said, we won't bother checking out webcasts until people feel they can start charging for them.

If you've ever used Hotmail, MSN or Windows Player you will soon receive emails telling you most of the above.

This is Microsoft's techie advice (read: justification when hundreds of thousands of people get that rising feeling of anti-climax): "If you have a 28.8k modem click on that link, remember your connection with this modem many be as slow as 14k so perhaps you'll get the best quality on the 28.8k version there will be an audio only link especially for that speed, bear in mind if you have a 56k modem your stream may only allow a 33.3k stream of audio and video.

"If you are watching from your office make sure you are not behind your office firewall. Ask your IT people to be sure a port is open for "Media Streaming", some offices have enabled only certain computers to be able to accept audio video streaming, others don't allow it all, some allow it just at night when business is less busy.

"Your IT dept may want you to change your 'proxy server' to one enabled for streaming and always check that your Internet Browser has it's security settings set to medium. There are many causes of 'Internet Congestion' bear in mind that the show will be back online for to enjoy within the hour and for some time thereafter." ®

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