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RealNetworks streams ahead

Tue, 04/23/2002 - 8:00pm
Staff

RealNetworks Inc. is looking to raise the bar in the streaming media competition - upgrading its streaming video and audio technologies.

RealVideo 9 and RealAudio Surround are designed to deliver broadcast-quality video to broadband users and subscription-quality video to narrowband users, RealNetworks says. RealVideo9 requires 30 percent less bandwidth to deliver the same quality video as RealVideo 8.

RealNetworks is banking on RealVideo 9 helping it move beyond delivering content through just PCs. The company is eyeing various devices in which its software can be used, including wireless phones, PDAs, set-top boxes and digital video recorders, such as TiVo.

FoxSports.com, Maverick Records and New Line Cinema are among the 22 content providers that have RealVideo 9 content available to consumers right now. Within 30 days, RealVideo 9 will be available for RealOne Player for Unix and RealPlayer for PocketPC.

RealNetworks rival Microsoft Corp.'s answer to RealVideo 9 is "Corona." Designed for the Windows XP operating system, the next-generation streaming media platform can playback video at "quality far beyond what is possible on many high-end televisions today," Microsoft says.

Corona is designed for HD-quality video as high as 1080p, six times the resolution of current DVD playback, Microsoft claimed. Graphics chip and video card makers ATI Technologies and Nvidia Corp. have pledged support Corona.

Separately, a new report from Datacomm Research claims that if 3G operators expect to be successful in this emerging market, offering streaming services will be key. Initially, streaming audio may fare better over wireless networks than video, because audio requires less bandwidth. With audiences most interested in news, sports, music, film, entertainment and finance, Datacomm says Internet radio is a potential gold mine for wireless access. In February 2002, the top 10 audio Web sites - including Shoutcast, RealNetworks, Yahoo Broadcast, Music Match and Spinner.com - logged 64 million tuning hours.

The research firm believes now is the time for wireless operators to embrace streaming. But, if operators are going to "grab onto the Internet's streaming content coattails," they need to identify target customers, form strategic alliances and create business models.

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