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Commentary: RealNetworks wins game

Given Microsoft's ambitions to be both a media and a game company, it's clear why Sony would choose RealNetworks to bring streaming audio and video to its PlayStation 2.

By Robert Batchelder, Gartner Analyst

The music, film and TV industries have relied on playback devices for their media to protect their property from unauthorized reproduction and distribution. Napster and other Internet-enabled peer-to-peer technologies have shown that the PC is lethal to this strategy.

The alternatives to Napster on the PC include

See news story:
RealNetworks finds home in PlayStation 2
RealNetworks' and Microsoft's media players. Both can limit the ability of individuals to store and forward content because of the way they encode and temporarily store content on PCs. Furthermore, these products are being enhanced to work as general-purpose delivery platforms for newer-generation devices such as personal digital assistants and set-top boxes.

Unlike the PC, set-top boxes represent a "closed box" set of features that vendors such as Sony Electronics, Microsoft and Nintendo can tightly control. Even though this new generation of set-top boxes will be Internet-enabled, consumers will have limited ability to re-purpose them as content storage and distribution devices. Thus, this class of devices is appealing to media companies.

Given Microsoft's ambitions to be both a media and a game company, it was predictable that Sony and AOL Time Warner would choose RealNetworks' rather than Microsoft's media player technology. The technical merits of RealNetwork's products notwithstanding, this announcement is yet another instance of the media's "ABM" strategy--"anybody but Microsoft."

(For related commentary on choosing a streaming server, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright © 2001 Gartner, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.