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DivX software delivers movable media

DivXNetworks unveils a new version of its compression technology that promises to let Internet users shrink video files on the PC to play back on a range of consumer electronics devices.

DivXNetworks unveiled a new version of its compression technology that promises to let Internet users shrink video files on the PC to play back on a range of consumer electronics devices.

The San Diego-based company on Wednesday released DivX 5.03, technology that helps deliver full-motion video over IP (Internet Protocol) networks and now also onto DivX-compatible consumer electronics, including DVD players and handheld devices. The code, popular for encoding video files on the PC, is compatible with MPEG-4, an emerging standard for multimedia delivery on applications ranging from downloadable Internet video to satellite radio.

"DivX users can now encode content once using the appropriate profile and be assured that their video will play back on their DivX certified DVD player or portable device at the highest possible quality level," Kevin Hell, the company's managing director, said in a statement.

The software catches up with moves by consumer device makers to introduce products that support advanced streaming video technologies that bridge the gap between the PC and home electronics, such as Sony's PlayStation 2. Not only does DivXNetworks make one of the most popular codecs for video compression on the Web, but its technology is catching on with chip manufacturers and device makers, including Philips Electronics and Texas Instruments. The company's newest software is aimed at consumers who want to port video off the PC without having to encode it multiple times.

Video compression technology is taking a page from the MP3 revolution, in which support for the music file standard gathered in peer-to-peer communities and electronics manufacturers later built compatible devices. Already about 3 million U.S. households swap files of movies and TV shows in file-sharing communities online such as Kazaa, according to research from The Yankee Group, which notes that a large amount of those files are encoded in DivX technology. About a third of those people downloading video files burn them onto a CD or DVD.

"Far and away DivX is the No. 1 format for file-swapping of video on the Net," said Ryan Jones, an analyst at The Yankee Group. "That's why DivX is striving to make their format as consumer electronics-friendly as possible, because there's this trend toward moving MPEG-4 off the PC and into the home theater and onto portable devices," he said.

The patent-pending DivX video technology touts DVD-quality compression that is 10 times more compact than MPEG-2 files. MPEG-2 is the standard for DVDs.

With its new suite of technology, consumers can encode videos to play back on DivX-compatible set-top boxes, DVD players, handheld and portable video players, as well as in the future, high-definition devices. The company boasts improvements to the technology's encoding and decoding capabilities, including allowing additional video sequencing as files are shrunk.

DivXNetworks has also created a certification program for device manufacturers so that consumers will easily spot DivX certified devices. One of the first DivX certified devices to hit the market in the United States will be the KiSS Technology DVD player later this year. DivXNetworks also has a number of partnerships with major chip companies, including ESS Technologies, Philips and Texas Instruments, which are all developing DivX-certified DVD players, portable players or video jukeboxes.