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Audible soars on RealNetworks, Microsoft pacts

Audio content specialist Audible Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBL) soared 3 9/16 to 14 1/4 Monday after it inked deals with Microsoft and with RealNetworks.

Audible trumpeted a new strategic alliance with Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) to support its Windows Media Technologies 4.0, bringing about 40 million users to Audible's spoken-audio content, the company said in a press release. Audible plans to make its library of spoken-audio content available in Windows Media format later in the year.

Microsoft owns a stake in the recently public Audible. Shares got a much-needed lift last week as its IPO underwriters started coverage.

Audible's collection of books, magazines and daily digests of leading newspapers in audio format will be made available for seamless PC-based playback using the Windows Media Player. The companies also plan to extend Windows Media and the AudibleReady program to portable devices.

Audible's deal with RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) the leader in media delivery for the Internet, will give users of the RealPlayer G2 with instant desktop access to Audible's library, which contains about 17,000 hours of Internet-delivered audio.

Exclusive content packages from Audible's content library can also be purchased at RealNetworks' online marketplace, www.RealStore.com, and Audible will become a featured advertiser at www.Real.com. The co-marketing campaign will invite users to sample Audible audio on their RealPlayer Plus G2 for free.

The double-header deal for Audible ups the ante for rivals RealNetworks and Microsoft. RealNetworks recently won a small victory when WebTV Networks Inc., a unit of Microsoft said it will use RealAudio software.