The non-exclusive memorandum of understanding was signed in Seattle, at the software giant's headquarters, by BBC director-general Mark Thompson, Ashley Highfield, BBC director of new media and technology, and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. It will lead to the development of next-generation broadcasting technology.
It is understood that the BBC plans to use Microsoft technology as part of its shift into the "Web 2.0 Age", by radically changing its homepage, creating second-generation services, and increasing the methods of sharing content online.
Thompson said: "To ensure that the BBC is able to embrace the creative challenges of the digital future, we need to forge strategic partnerships with technology companies and distributors for the benefit of licence payers."
The corporation said the memorandum of understanding would "define the framework" in which the two companies would work together in delivering BBC content in the future.
Gates said: "Microsoft's strength is in driving digital innovation, and our vision is to open up rich, new consumer experiences that allow people to enjoy digital content anytime, anywhere and on any device."
The BBC said its deal with Microsoft aims to identify areas of common interest between the two parties, which include navigation, distribution and content enablement.
However, from Microsoft's point of view, the key to the deal is its non-exclusivity, freeing it to develop partnerships with the BBC's rivals, many of which are based in the US.
According to media reports, the Thompson and Highfield also plan to visit IBM and Real Networks while in the US, raising speculation of further partnership announcements in the near future.
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