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RealAudio opens channels

Progressive Networks unveils a framework that allows its RealAudio software to work with other streaming media technologies, including forthcoming products from Netscape Communications.

Progressive Networks has unveiled a framework that allows its RealAudio software to work with other streaming media technologies, including forthcoming products from Netscape Communications.

As previously reported by CNET, the framework is called RealMedia Architecture and will allow streaming media products from different vendors to send and receive broadcasts to each other.

Progressive Networks' Rob Glaser on RMA
Streaming media software allows users to listen to audio files, view video clips, and receive other kinds of data as they are downloaded from the Internet, rather having to wait for the files to download.

Although Progressive Networks is the clear market leader in the streaming audio field, it is facing growing competition from companies such as Microsoft, Macromedia, and Xing Technologies. The trouble for consumers is that the players that they download to their hard disks can only read content delivered by servers from the same company--in other words, no mix and match. But the RealMedia Architecture will allow users to get streamed audio and video while worrying less about whether they have the right player.

The framework is designed to work with a variety of different media types including audio, video, MIDI, data, animation, presentations, and images, to interoperate with client and server software, Progressive Networks said.

According to sources, one of the key supporters of the RealMedia framework will be Netscape Communications. The company is preparing to unveil a client code-named Trout, and a server code-named Salmon at its developer conference in New York next week, sources said.

Progressive's streaming media framework is intended to bolster the company's position in the market by broadening the range of client software that can tune in to audio broadcasts distributed by its server. If the framework takes off with developers, it could also give Progressive Networks control of a valuable set of APIs that govern how various streaming media products work together.

"From a distribution standpoint, the RealMedia Architecture works very much today the way the RealAudio system works," Rob Glazer, chairman and CEO of Progressive Networks, said today. "The major change, the major innovation is that you've got this wide range of different data types and different tools on the back end that allow you to take that wide range of content that you can a streamed fashion."

Today, Progressive Networks said 13 companies have endorsed the framework, including Iterated Systems, LiveUpdate, Berkeley Integrated Audio Software, Future Wave, Instant Sports, In Sync, Narrative Communications, Net-Scene, OLiVR, Software Publishing, SonicFoundry, and Syntrillium.

Progressive Networks has posted a beta version of the RealMedia software development kit on its Web site. The SDK includes a description of the architecture's client API and tools for creating compatible files from different data types.