Undeniably, the streaming media industry as a whole would stand to gain from interoperable standards and a simplified end-user experience.
A standard such as MPEG-4 would
An industry standard would bring all of these benefits, but it will likely not materialize as long as major players Microsoft and RealNetworks pursue separate paths. Apple's and other IT vendors' attempts to take a leadership position by joining the Internet Streaming Media Alliance are futile without the participation of one of the major players.
Although streaming technology is young, Microsoft's claim that standards are not possible is disingenuous. Standards are expected to evolve and need not hold back innovation. Indeed, early standards often spur evolution by providing developers with a framework in which to compete. Moreover, both Microsoft and RealNetworks work with many standards in the field, including MPEG and MP3. They do not shun standards but an alliance.
Despite this initiative, Microsoft and RealNetworks will continue to dominate the streaming industry. Strategically, Microsoft enjoys the same advantage that it did with browsers: the ability to exploit its vast monopoly of other core technologies. Although RealNetworks was a pioneer in streaming media technology and definitely maintains parity with its arch rival, the company is less safely ensconced in this market because streaming media forms its only business, and it has no other base from which to exercise such leverage.
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