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Commentary: Streaming media group stymied without big players

The streaming media industry as a whole would stand to gain from interoperable standards and a simplified end-user experience.

    By Lou Latham, Gartner Analyst

    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

    See news story:
    New streaming standards effort missing market leaders
    enable consumers to play any content with a single player, and would make it easier to create, manage and deliver streaming content across a variety of networks and devices.

    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.

    For other commentaries, see

    Entire contents, Copyright ? 2000 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.