February 23, 1998Apps For Streaming Servers
Video vendors add to offerings
By Justin Hibbard
wo prominent vendors of streaming-media servers, players, and tools are offering business applications that run on their servers. Starlight Networks Inc. last week released an application for two-way real-time communications, while RealNetworks Inc. shipped an app for creating and distributing audio-narrated slide presentations.
StarLive from Starlight lets users view live video presentations and synchronized slide shows via standard Web browsers. In addition, a chat window lets viewe rs communicate with presenters in real time, letting presenters respond to text messages immediately via video. Presentations are stored as they are created so that users who miss a live event can view a playback later.
The Pentagon is testing StarLive for delivering presentations and training to about 1,600 users over an intranet and extranet. "It's the interactive chat feature that StarLive brings to the table that we're really after," says John Downey, deputy director of information management in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense. "It's one thing to get the message out. It's another to get it out and get comments back while you're making policy."
Starlight sells StarLive for $49,500. The price includes three to four weeks of software customization and other services from the Starlight RapidMedia Group, which Downey refers to as "a crackerjack outfit." Not included with StarLive are streaming-media servers for delivering the application. The product interfaces with streaming-medi a servers from Starlight, Microsoft, and RealNetworks.
RealNetworks' streaming-media application, RealPresenter, is a Microsoft PowerPoint 97 plug-in that allows users to create animated slide presentations with synchronized voice narration. After creating a PowerPoint presentation, users select the RealPresenter plug-in from the PowerPoint tools menu and record a narration as they flip through the slides.
"Our tools have traditionally been for Web developers and IS managers," says Kevin Foreman, general manager of the tools group at RealNetworks, in Seattle. "This is our first attempt at reaching business users."
RealPresenter, priced at $39.99, not only opens streaming-media development to a new class of users, but also demonstrates that the RealPlayer client can be used for more than entertainment and training, says Jae Kim, an analyst at Paul Kagan Associates in Carmel, Calif. "With this product," Kim says, "RealNetworks has been able to break through a barrier and say this Rea lPlayer is something that can be used during the business day."
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