Computer users will be able to rent software, download films and play interactive games under a revolutionary Internet deal to be announced today by Bill Gates and Hongkong Telecom. The service is one of the first in the world and will put the SAR at the forefront of the convergence of the TV and the computer. The joint-venture scheme, set to be available by the end of the year, will give computer users access to Telecom's broadband fibre-optic network, dramatically speeding up response time. The Microsoft technology will allow users to rent a wide range of software from Telecom's computers at low cost for one-time use. Applications such as Microsoft Word could be downloaded almost as quickly as if the software was on the home computer's hard drive. Users would not need to buy software, which can cost thousands of dollars and may only be used a few times. And because the software never gets fully downloaded, it makes it harder for pirates to copy. The low cost of individual rentals also makes piracy less economically attractive. Computer users would also be able to download films, play interactive games and access the World Wide Web much more quickly. Telecom already allows subscribers to download movies to watch on television or computer, but a decoder is needed. The alliance will help Telecom cement its domination of the Internet service provider market, of which it holds between 50 to 70 per cent, and move into the still-untapped realm of electronic commerce. With the recent deregulation of its long-distance phone monopoly, Telecom has been searching for new sources of revenue. Hongkong Telecom's share price rose nine per cent last Friday on rumours of the alliance with Microsoft. Mr Gates will arrive today to announce the deal in his first visit since December 1995. Hong Kong currently lags behind the United States, Singapore and Malaysia in e-commerce, which the Government sees as a crucial future high-value-added services industry. Mr Gates leaves for Shenzhen on Wednesday, to do business with government officials and local partners.