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The company's new multimedia file format strategy for its Windows operating system, is intended to replace the Audio Video Interleaved file format.

Microsoft (MSFT) today rolled out a new multimedia file format strategy for its Windows operating system, intended to replace the Audio Video Interleaved (AVI) file format.

The company will integrate into Windows two newly developed formats, the Advanced Streaming Format (ASF) and the Advanced Authoring Format (AAF).

ASF is a format for streaming media distribution, while AAF enables the exchange of media among digital production tools and content creation applications, Microsoft said.

The two will become the new default multimedia file formats for Windows succeeding AVI by 1999, the company said.

AAF was developed by Microsoft along with eight other companies, including Adobe Systems, Avid Technologies, Digidesign, and Softimage. The format was introduced today by the group, also known as The Multimedia Task Force (MMTF).

"After we spoke with key players in the digital media production industry, it became clear that first-generation personal-computer-based multimedia file formats, such as AVI and WAV, were not capable of serving as interchange standards for professionally produced digital media," Microsoft's David Cole said in a statement. Cole is vice president of the Web client and consumer experience division.

Streaming media technology is becoming an increasingly common feature of Web sites that want to add video- and audio-on-demand, as well as live broadcast capabilities to their sites. The technology, which allows users to listen to or view clips as they're being downloaded, rather than after they've been downloaded completely, is also being touted as a corporate tool for applications such as multimedia training.

Over the past year Microsoft has been making moves into the multimedia industry.

Through its investment last summer in streaming industry leader Progressive Networks followed by its purchase of the smaller VXtreme, Microsoft has essentially bought its way into the core of the market with the stated intent of developing its NetShow multimedia client-server package, which uses ASF to regulate the downloading of audio and video files from a server to a client machine.

Microsoft and other industry software developers have offered all or part of both ASF and AAF to appropriate standards bodies, including the society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and the International Standards Organization (ISO). Microsoft said the formats will play major roles in the formulation of emerging industry standards.

A specification for AAF is available free of charge on Microsoft's Web site. The company plans to provide a software development kit (SDK) and Windows operating system support for AAF by early 1999. Support for ASF 1.0 will be included in future versions of Windows, while support for ASF 2.0 will be provided in updates to Windows 98 and Windows NT 5.0.

A specification and SDK for ASF 2.0 are available now on the company's Web site, the company said.