Video streaming technology will rapidly move to broadband, predicted Real Networks chief executive Rob Glaser in an Internet World keynote.
Glaser, who pulled in the biggest audience for his session, also called on the music industry to embrace the MP3 audio format.
Many in the audience were expecting fireworks especially since Glaser is an outspoken critic of Microsoft. But he made no reference to the software giant or reacted to Microsoft's recent launch of MS Audio which is aimed squarely at MP3.
In the past, Glaser has accused Microsoft of sabotaging his products. However he did discuss the digital audio market and the role of MP3 in it.
Instead, Glaser discussed the emergence of broadband Internet access, and how this would make video streaming an even more important part of the Web.
By 2002, only 20 per cent of US homes are expected to have broadband access, said Glaser. But he argued that in fact, half the streaming media users will have access to broadband either at home or in the office. This will be "an important cut point," Glaser predicted.
In order to fulfill the promise of high-quality video streaming, another condition must be met: video broadcasting must move closer to the user, and eventually into the user?s local Point of Presence (POP).
Glaser demonstrated two different qualities of video broadcasting over the Internet. A first clip showed a television news broadcast, converted into a 300Kbps stream ? one quarter of the bandwidth required by MPEG 1. The other clip, a movie trailer, used 800Kbps and offered about the quality of traditional TV broadcasting. Both speeds are well out of range of today?s 56Kbps modems.
Video streaming will become a more important part of the Internet, Glaser predicted. He said Internet portals would soon link directly to audio and video, not merely to text. Personalised sites (such as My Yahoo) will add tailored video content such as news highlights. And search engines will search inside audio and video streams.
Glaser also discussed the digital distribution of audio over the Internet. The music industry has been shaken up by the success of MP3, an audio format that allows CD quality audio to be copied easily over the Internet.
Real Networks announced earlier this week that it was acquiring Xing, a company that has developed MP3 software.
Glaser said Real Networks supports IBM?s Madison project, which aims to create an audio format with copy protection. But he added that MP3 is here to stay. "There is a significant legitimate [MP3] market that can not be ignored," said Glaser. He added that Real Networks would "work within the system", rather than fighting MP3.
According to Glaser, the industry will need a technology to sell digital content on the Internet securely. But MP3 will remain a useful format to distribute free promotional content.
Glaser compared the current concerns over MP3 with the audiovisual industry?s fear that video recorders would destroy television and cinemas. Instead, the fact that consumers were given more choice actually helped grow the entire market, said Glaser. "The industry should embrace this wide range of choices," he concluded.
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