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RealNetworks, TI order audio to go

The streaming media company and the chipmaker are working together to bring live audio and video to mobile devices.

RealNetworks and Texas Instruments on Monday said that they will expand their partnership to broadcast live audio and video via portable devices such as cell phones.

The companies said that the mobile version of RealNetworks' digital media player, dubbed RealPlayer Mobile, will be used with Texas Instrument's Open Multimedia Applications Platform (OMAP) technology, which aims to support audio--and eventually pictures and video--by taking advantage of the greater bandwidth made available in the next generation of cell phones and handhelds.

The announcement signals RealNetworks' latest effort to strengthen its position in the digital streaming market by moving beyond desktop services. Phil Leigh, a music-retailing analyst for brokerage house Raymond James, said that although wireless service carriers and handset manufacturers are only beginning to provide digital media to their customers, it is important for the streaming media company to establish itself in this area.

"If RealNetworks doesn't get its player technology and streaming technology into handheld devices, by default somebody else will get it," he said. "When it does get to be important, then it will be too late for RealNetworks to catch up."

The Seattle-based company faces competition from software giant Microsoft in the market to deliver streaming video and audio. All handhelds using Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system already play MP3 and Windows Media audio files.

Leigh said that RealNetworks' move is "an incremental step in the right direction" on top of its previous efforts, especially with Texas Instruments. In January, the pair announced plans to integrate RealPlayer software into two of the chipmaker's DSPs (digital signaling processors), which are used in hardware that handles audio and video compression in real time.

RealNetworks said support for RealPlayer Mobile is expected to be available in the first quarter of next year. The player will be integrated with Texas Instruments' OMAP 710 and OMAP 1510 processors.

Although the companies eventually plan to use their partnership to broadcast video, RealNetworks said it is focusing on audio initially.

"We expect audio on mobile devices to be mainstream much more quickly than certainly video on mobile devices," said Ian Freed, RealNetworks' general manager of mobile products and services. "Just as audio led the PC desktop, we expect audio to lead on mobile devices."