With more than 3 million free RealAudio players downloaded from Progressive's Web site, RealAudio has quickly become one of the most popular software tools for streaming audio, or transmitting audio without downloading it to a user's hard disk. Under the terms of today's agreement, Microsoft will bundle a copy of the 100K RealAudio Personal Server with a future release of Internet Explorer so that users can create and broadcast streamed audio files.
By combining Internet Explorer and the RealAudio Personal Server, which normally costs $99, the two companies hope to create a new breed of Internet applications that require streaming capabilities.
Developers could create a voice mail application, for example, that delivers streamed messages in real time over the Internet to control voice mailboxes, said Rob Glaser, CEO and founder of Progressive Networks.
Glaser said that such applications could take the form of ActiveX controls, OLE-based applets that will plug into Internet Explorer 3.0, which Microsoft is releasing to developers this week in alpha form.
The Personal Server lets users broadcast two simultaneous streams to any RealAudio client, including users of the RealAudio plug-in for Netscape Navigator 2.0.
Now that Progressive has allied itself with Microsoft, the company will revamp all its server products to support Microsoft's recently announced ActiveMovie Streaming Format (ASF), a standard proposed last week for offering real-time audio and video feeds over the Internet. Progressive Networks also intends to support the ActiveMovie specification in its player and the encoding software for Web browsers that creates RealAudio files.
Even though RealAudio, Xing's StreamWorks, and other streaming formats already work together, Glaser said that supporting the ActiveMovie standard is an attempt to provide broad compatibility between streaming products from different vendors.
"ASF is a step forward in creating an environment for mixing and matching [streaming] components so that they interoperate in a very broad way," he said.