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Netscape hears call of streaming audio

Netscape enters the growing fray of companies with streaming audio products, posting a beta version of its Media Server 1.0.

Tech Industry
Netscape Communications (NSCP) today entered the growing fray of companies with streaming audio products by posting a beta version of its Media Server 1.0 on the Net.

Streamed audio is a technology for listening to music and other sound clips as they are downloading, instead of having to save them to a hard disk and then listening to them. The technology is employed by a growing number of Web sites for everything from news broadcasts to live rock concerts.

Although Netscape was able to dominate the browser market by being the first company to release a high grade, commercial browser, it does not enjoy the same advantage in the audio streaming market. Progressive Networks was the first to market with a streaming audio product and its RealAudio has become virtually synonymous with Internet audio. Meanwhile, other companies such as Microsoft and Macromedia have released audio products in an effort to capture their own piece of the growing market.

While Progressive has focused primarily on the consumer market, Netscape officials say the company will target the corporate intranet market with Media Server, demonstrating its use for applications such as multimedia training and broadcasting companywide meetings.

"Netscape is going after the corporate user and the Media Server fits right into that," said Netscape product manager Christopher Walton.

Netscape and Progressive, along with a number of other vendors, are working together to promote a technology called the Real-Time Streaming Protocol, which could allow all of their server and client products to work together. The companies last month submitted the specification to the Internet Engineering Task Force for adoption as a Net standard.

Media Server 1.0 offers broadcast-stereo quality sound over 28.8 kbps and CD-quality sound at ISDN and internal network speeds. Audio broadcasts can also be synchronized with HTML pages and Java applets so that, for example, a user could watch and listen to a slide presentation through a Web browser.

The server, which runs on Unix and Windows NT, now supports only a subset of the Real-Time Streaming Protocol, but a later beta will support all of it, said Walton.

Netscape has also posted a client, called Media Player, that works as a Netscape plug-in application for Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT, Macintosh, and most Unix platforms.

Netscape plans to ship the final version of Media Server 1.0 in the first quarter of 1997. The server will be bundled with SuiteSpot, a $3,995 collection of servers, and sold alone as well for $995.

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