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Apple talks cool

Apple and Netscape will develop audio and video software for a new Internet videoconferencing and telephony product due this year.

Apple Computer (AAPL) and Netscape Communications (NSCP) today declared their intention to develop audio and video software in an alliance that will result in a new Internet videoconferencing and telephony product this year, according to Apple officials.

So far the only concrete example of the agreement is the beta availability of the Internet phone product CoolTalk for Macintosh, but Apple officials said more robust software was in the works.

For the present, CoolTalk for Mac will be bundled as a helper application with the Navigator 3.0 browser. The beta version, which is based on Apple's QuickTime Conferencing system extension, offers audio conferencing over TCP/IP networks and interacts with CoolTalk for Windows and Unix.

CoolTalk for Mac will also support videoconferencing, a whiteboard for sharing text documents, graphics, and sound files. These features, however, require the purchase of a different piece of software, rather confusingly called Quicktime Conferencing, for $49.95.

This "payware" will not work with CoolTalk for Windows or Unix, something QuickTime product manager Suzanne Hampton says will be addressed by the end of the year. The company plans to release a new Internet telephony and video product that will work in Navigator as a helper or standalone application.

Meanwhile, CoolTalk for Mac will be based on Netscape's LiveMedia protocols, which are expected to conform to the emerging international H.323 standard, a set of specifications that will determine how computers share audio and video streaming and compression over networks. A software developer kit and technical documentation for CoolTalk for Mac will be available on the Netscape Web site, but no specific date has been announced.