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Vivo will stream for novices

The streaming software maker will use Microsoft's format in its consumer products for sending video email greetings and putting slides online.

LAS VEGAS--Streaming media software maker Vivo Software yesterday demonstrated two new products due for release next year that aim to bring the company closer to the end-user market.

The company is currently working on a videogram application dubbed "Message Express" that lets users create and send a video greeting over email, as well as a tool called "Slide Show" that puts slide presentations on the Web. Due in the first quarter of 1998, the final versions will support Microsoft's Active Streaming Format, or ASF. Microsoft is touting the adoption of ASF as a way to speed up the development of the streaming media market.

Microsoft's efforts to consolidate the streaming media market around its own specification--which include the purchase of VXtreme and investments in VDONet and RealNetworks--have attracted the attention of the Justice Department, which announced an investigation in August.

Vivo does not have any investment ties to Microsoft but is "closely tied on the development and marketing" side, according to Daud Power, Vivo's director of strategic alliances.

Vivo is strongly supportive of Microsoft's efforts. Instead of the current fragmented state of affairs in which each major developer has its own file format, a single ASF platform would make streaming media more palatable to the customers who spend the big bucks, Power said. "It's a piss-pot market in terms of size right now. Big companies won't adopt the technology if they have to always create four or five different versions of the same file. The file format should be a non-issue," he said.

Vivo has its own proprietary streaming format, but will largely focus on ASF from now on, Power said. Vivo, Microsoft, Adobe Systems, Intel, and RealNetworks comprised the original group that put together the ASF specification.

Content created with the upcoming Slide Show and Message Express (the names are subject to change) will be viewable with Vivo's own standalone player software or with Microsoft's NetShow player, which ships for free in Internet Explorer. Navigator users will have to use a NetShow plug-in, Power said.

Slide Show and Message Express will cost approximately $99 and will be available for Windows 95 and NT only. There are no current plans to create Macintosh versions.