Microsoft and Progressive Networks have announced a deal that could accelerate the growth of real-time audio and video on the Net.
Rob Glaser, former VP of multimedia at Microsoft and founder of Progressive Networks, has agreed to license RealAudio and RealVideo to Microsoft for use in future versions of its software.
Streaming technologies can be used to send highly compressed audio and video files over the Internet, which can be viewed or listened to as they are downloading.
Microsoft revealed it will incorporate Real-Audio and RealVideo into its own NetShow video and audio servers, which are packaged with Internet Site Server.
In a further show of unity, the companies agreed to co-develop a would-be Microsoft standard, the Active Streaming Format, which will be the basis for future streaming media products and will ensure that clients and servers from either company interoperate using RealAudio and RealVideo.
Martin Gregory, Internet product manager at Microsoft, said: "The killer application of the future will be the way audio and video gets pushed over the Net. The agreement should give us a wider audience and mean less incompatibility." He added that the technologies will be included with the final release of the Internet Explorer 4.0 browser.
Progressive Networks has an 85 per cent market share for streaming audio players, with more than 20 million copies downloaded over the Internet. Microsoft's licensing deal is estimated to be worth at least $30 million.
Sean Nye, creative director of London-based Web design company Sahara, said the deal was good for developers because streaming technology needed a unified standard. "In general terms, it's a good thing because at the moment we're limiting our audience. If we develop a video for NetShow, we're excluding those people who only have RealAudio."
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