MIGHTY MICROSOFT experienced the unwelcome novelty of being on the losing end of a major deal when UK-based global telecoms and TV giant Cable & Wireless Communications handed the contract for its digital TV set-top boxes to Network Computer, a US company controlled by Microsoft’s deadliest rivals, Netscape and Oracle. Previously, word within the biz was that Microsoft’s WebTV had the deal in its pocket. According to C&WC chief executive Graham Wallace, ‘price and availability’ were the decisive factors that went against WebTV. He also added that Network Computer’s Internet-based software will provide greater scope for interactivity than its rival’s product; it was also more versatile in that it can be installed in virtually any set-top box. C&WC plans to launch a 200-channel service later this year.