Amazon.com, Microsoft in streaming deal

The e-tail giant is expected to announce a deal Thursday to use the latest version of the software giant's digital media technology to stream music samples from its Web site.

Amazon.com is expected to announce a deal with Microsoft on Thursday to use the latest version of the software giant's digital media technology to stream music samples from its Web site.

Amazon will use Microsoft's Windows Media Services 9 (WM9), with encoding services provided by digital media services provider LoudEye. The deal will also affect sample streams at Borders.com, CDNow.com and VirginMega.com, which outsource their e-commerce sites through Amazon.

Amazon already offers samples in Windows Media and RealNetworks formats for CDs it sells over its site. But Microsoft touted the deal as a step forward in the quality of experience for online shoppers. Microsoft claims WM9 solves the problem of "buffering" delays related to older streaming media technology.

"The ability to provide instant-on, fast-streaming audio samples with Windows Media 9 Series virtually eliminates waiting times and enables our customers to have instantly gratifying listening experiences," Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media division at Microsoft, said in a statement.

Microsoft is increasingly gaining traction for its digital media technology in all corners of the entertainment industry, from Internet music and video sites to and movie theaters.

Digital media is central to Microsoft's strategy to extend the reach of its Windows technology beyond the desktop and into myriad consumer-electronics devices, from set-top boxes to stereos and portable MP3 players.

The Amazon deal comes weeks after Apple Computer launched a 99 cent music download store offering some 200,000 tracks licensed from the five major record labels. The store has sold more than 2 million songs so far, setting off a surge of interest in digital music services.

"Amazon.com is always striving to provide customers with the best possible online shopping experience by using the most powerful and innovative technologies," Curtis Kopf, director of digital for Amazon, said in a statement.

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