At Internet World, the three industry giants announce plans for a new alliance called the Networked Multimedia Connection (NMC) to make it easier for developers to write multimedia applications.
The agreement hinges on efforts by the companies to spur development of applications that facilitate interactive learning, for example. A Networked Multimedia Lab will soon open at Cisco headquarters in San Jose, California, for testing of such applications. Software developer kits and sample code will soon be released by all three vendors, and technical assistance will be made available.
Furthermore, the three companies will rely on the standards process to move the multimedia application market forward. They plan to support the resource reservation protocol, IP Multicasting for sending one transmission to many users, and the International Telecommunications Union H.323 standard for defining how PCs can share multimedia data over networks.
"We are putting investments together to help develop the market," said Don Listwin, Cisco's senior vice president of market development. "We believe the time is now, in 1997, to begin deploying these types of applications."
Listwin said the effort was aimed primarily at businesses building intranets and looking to take advantage of the networking resources of the Web. A typical example of how a business could use a conferencing program, for example, would be having an offsite meeting on the Internet or intranet, rather than carting hundreds of employees to a remote location.
"There's real opportunities here in businesses," Listwin noted.
Cisco has been stressing that it wants to have networked applications work through its Cisco Internetworking Operating System (IOS); Microsoft has a product called NetMeeting for audioconferencing as well as NetShow, a multimedia broadcast software tool; Intel has developed an application called ProShare for videoconferencing. The combination of these multimedia-specific elements with each vendor's strength--operating systems, networking hardware, and PC and server components--means the companies will be able to drive adoption to a large extent.
Intel recently engaged 3Com in a price war on Ethernet-based network interface cards for PCs not only to gain market share but also to speed adoption of 100-mbps Ethernet technology to the desktop. That speed is more suited to deliver multimedia applications than the current 10-mbps cards that dominate the market.
Over 20 companies will support the NMC initiative. More information is available at a new NMC Web site.