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RealNetworks offering video update

The company is introducing a new version of its video compression technology that is aimed at improving choppy video broadcasts delivered over dial-up modems to the Internet.

RealNetworks is introducing on Wednesday a new version of its video compression technology that is aimed at improving choppy video broadcasts delivered over dial-up modems to the Internet.

RealVideo 9 is the latest iteration of RealNetworks' audio and video compression technology, used by Web publishers to store and send large files such as movie clips, newscasts or DVDs over the Internet to the PC. RealNetworks said the technology improves the compression rates of its RealVideo 8 technology by 30 percent, making it about 30 percent less expensive for Web publishers to deliver audio and video files. It says it also compresses data at 25 percent of the rate of MPEG-2, the industry standard for digital set-top boxes, cable and satellites.

The move is the latest round of updates to video compression and playback features for Internet broadcasts and other digital media. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its next-generation video compression technology, code-named Corona, which it says will dramatically improve video delivery quality for broadband users. While the company has been gathering wide support for Corona, it has yet to set a firm date for its arrival.

With this latest announcement, RealNetworks is attempting to solve long-standing hiccups for consumers watching video over narrowband speeds. The company said RealVideo 9 will deliver DVD quality to broadband consumers. In addition, RealNetworks said the codec has been tweaked to allow playback on TV screens as well as PC monitors. Codecs are used to compress and decompress various types of data, particularly those that would otherwise use up large amounts of disk space, such as sound and video files.

Analysts say consumers using a dial-up connection will benefit most, however. As many as 53 million Americans connect to the Net using 56kbps (kilobits per second) or slower modems.

"They've broken the home barrier," said Richard Doherty, analyst at the Envisioneering Group. "Suddenly if you're watching CNN or a Warner Bros. music video, that video will be smoother and not as jerky. It will be what we call video, not a slide show."

The company on Wednesday also plans to introduce enhancements for audio, called RealAudio Surround, aimed at the home theater crowd.

As part of its announcement, RealNetworks said that it submitted components of RealVideo 9 to the Joint Video Team, a joint working group that is creating the next version of MPEG-4.