RealNetworks is supporting an open standard for streaming media which could boost the take up of digital video and audio in the enterprise.
The vendor has announced support for MPEG-4, the open standard for digital video and audio. Native support for MPEG-4 will be included in the next release of the RealSystem iQ media delivery software, but it is now supported with plug-ins of Envivio's MPEG-4 technology.
RealNetworks has also joined the Third Generation (3G) Partnership Project, a standards group that works to set technical specifications for 3G mobile systems.
Carriers and handset manufacturers are tending to support MPEG-4 rather than proprietary formats, so support for MPEG-4 will help RealNetworks create demand for its software in the wireless delivery of digital media.
Streaming allows live and pre-recorded video and audio presentations to be delivered to end users across the internet. One reason that take-up has been hampered is a lack of support for standards and fierce rivalry between vendors.
The main viewers are Microsoft's Media Player, RealNetworks' RealPlayer and Apple's Quicktime, but they support different standards.
Microsoft has a large share of the corporate streaming player market while RealNetworks is ahead in consumer usage.
Research firm Market Decisions says that one in four US firms are using streaming media, while Jupiter Media Metrix reports that in the US in May, RealPlayer was used by 29.5 million home users compared to 21.1 million users of Media Player. RealPlayer has 11.2 million users at work.
In June, RealNetworks made a push for enterprise market share with the announcement of RealSystem Media Commerce Suite, a system that offers secure licensing for enterprises looking to offer commercial streaming services. It is already being used by MusicNet, the online subscription service owned by AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI.
Mobile operators AT&T Wireless, Sonera, StarHub Mobile and Telefonica Móviles Espana are currently conducting wireless digital media trials using RealNetworks' technology and content over their 2.5G data networks.
These data networks use GPRS technology which allows an 'always on' internet connection plus increased bandwidth for mobile users.
"Multimedia delivery to mobile devices is the next logical step for wireless services," said Daniel Sheeran, vice president of Media Systems at RealNetworks. "RealNetworks' content partners already generate thousands of hours of new content every day and wireless carriers can use and test this technology."
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