Verizon (VZ) - Get Report has jumped into Microsoft's (MSFT) - Get Report Internet TV camp.

The nation's largest phone company joins Bell peer

SBC

(SBC)

in choosing Microsoft as its TV set-top software provider.

Though a consumer offering of Verizon's video-over-fiber-optic-cable service isn't expected until at least late this year, Verizon clearly wants to show it is making progress on the advanced services front.

The software is designed to allow next generation set-top boxes to manage a variety of TV features like video-on-demand, high-definition programming and digital recording. Both Verizon and SBC are

expanding their fiber optic networks to offer video and compete with cable companies.

BellSouth

(BLS)

has been testing the Microsoft boxes, and in November SBC said it was committed to using Microsoft IP TV platform.

Verizon had planned to make the announcement Monday, but rushed out the release Friday after reports first appeared in

BusinessWeek

and

LightReading.com

.

Microsoft closed up 7 cents at $26.18 and Verizon dropped 24 cents to $35.63 Friday.