Microsoft Unveils New Format For Streaming Audio, Video - InformationWeek

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Microsoft Unveils New Format For Streaming Audio, Video

Windows Media 9 will let developers and users more easily create, manage, and access digital content.

Microsoft Monday unveiled Windows Media 9, which will offer tools that let both developers and users more easily create, manage, and access digital content. A beta version is scheduled to be launched on Sept. 4.

Windows Media 9, formerly code-named Corona, encompasses server-side and client-side software as well as developer kits that let third parties create content in the Windows Media format. Microsoft execs say the format will let home-theater quality sound and audio be delivered across the Web without resorting to file sizes that would choke even the fastest Internet connections.

The technology will also offer advantages to businesses, more and more of which are using streaming media for training and conferencing purposes, Microsoft product manager Michael Aldridge says. "It's becoming essential technology in many business environments," Aldridge says. He notes that Mercedes-Benz uses Microsoft's current Windows Media software to help showcase products.

But while the technology could strengthen the Windows environment, some competitors will doubtless bridle at the notion that Microsoft is creating an end-to-end media platform that uses proprietary algorithms for compression and decompression and then seeding the market with developers' kits. Aldridge admits Microsoft has yet to decide if it will make a client-side viewer available for Apple's Macintosh operating system. And in the past, Real Networks, which creates a digital media platform of its own, has accused Microsoft of bullying computer makers into making Windows Media Player the default player on their PCs. "We'll hear the same arguments that this is standard operating procedure for Microsoft," says Technology Business Research analyst Geoffrey James. In response, Aldridge says all companies are free to license the technology.

Steve Banfield, VP for strategic relations at Real Networks, says he's not concerned about Microsoft's impending release. "They've been talking about this for over a year, and we haven't seen anything yet," he says. "This is page 10 out of their vaporware playbook."

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