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Tesco gets Flash of Silverlight in 'virtual DVD' deal

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Microsoft has inked a deal with UK mega-grocer Tesco to flog a new home viewing service built on the software firm's Silverlight technology - which MS developers recently shunned at the launch of its Flash-only MSN video player.

Financial terms of the agreement were kept secret.

The retail giant will begin offering "digital copy" download versions of certain home video titles bought by Tesco's UK customers. It will allow them to watch the movie or show on their Windows and Mac-based computers in what Microsoft described as a "virtual DVD experience".

To convince customers to scoop up the digital copy, Tesco will provide a few add-ons such as auto-updated trailers, exclusive bonus content, online chat, and even "movie viewing parties" (presumably minus the balloons).

There will also be related music offerings that include MP3s and ringtones, made available via Microsoft's browser-based media player.

Microsoft claimed the service would "deliver a similar level of quality as consumers have come to expect from DVD and Blu-ray, but with advanced web-based interactivity and a viewing experience that goes beyond other digital playback products in the marketplace."

The service will be available shortly, said Microsoft.

“We believe this alliance will offer consumers in the UK, and eventually additional markets, the opportunity to download a digital copy that is truly the equivalent of a physical disk - with the same package of navigation, bonus features and director commentaries,” said MS media and ents biz director Gabriele Di Piazza.

However, the statement did not reveal how many movie titles sold by Tesco would come with the digital copy option.

The agreement between the software vendor and retail mammoth hints at a sort of junior style Netflix service for the UK.

Of course Netflix - the US movies-on-demand outfit - already uses the Silverlight tech, although it has been dogged with glitches and slow streaming.

The Tesco tie-up comes one day after Microsoft announced that its next version of Silverlight will feature out-of-browser digital rights management (DRM) in a move to keep media giants, if not consumers, happy.

Silverlight 4.0 is expected to offer protection to streamed content as well as letting the player run protected DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

In August Microsoft launched an online TV player in Blighty that was bereft of Silverlight.

The company's ad-funded MSN Video Player is available to UK broadband customers and features TV programmes from BBC Worldwide and All3Media.

However, at launch MS wonks collectively turned their noses up at Silverlight, favouring Adobe's Flash technology instead. ®

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