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Microsoft Nabs Navic

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is getting serious about cable again... or at least could find itself with a place at the table as MSOs start to solidify their advanced/targeted advertising strategies.

We'll have more analysis on this shortly, but Microsoft has sealed a deal to acquire Navic Networks , a maker of interactive TV and advanced ad software and applications. (See Microsoft Nabs Navic Networks.)

Although the Waltham, Mass.-based Navic isn't a large company, it does have an impressive list of large customers, including Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Bright House Networks , and Canada's Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. At last check, Navic officials told us that its apps were running on 35 million set-tops.

The deal dovetails with Microsoft's $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive, which happens to operate a unit that aims to bring Internet-like precision to the world of cable video-on-demand. (See Microsoft On Demand and Microsoft to Buy aQuantive.)

Although Microsoft has had a terrible time getting its software into cable set-top boxes (recall that Comcast jettisoned Microsoft's "Foundation Edition" software and interactive program guide from its Seattle market last year), it might have timed its Navic deal just right.

That's because a handful of major U.S. MSOs -- Comcast, TWC, Cox, Charter, Bright House, and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) -- are all putting their weight behind a cross-MSO advanced advertising company that was officially rechristened last week as Canoe Ventures LLC. (See Verklin Picked as Cable's Canoe Captain and Introducing 'Canoe Ventures'.)

Although Canoe Ventures has not identified any official technology partners, industry sources indicated last year that Navic was one of the vendors being considered following that big CableLabs request for information (RFI). (See Cable's 'Canoe' RFI Paddles Toward Deadline.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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