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Real streams package into beta

RealNetworks is releasing the beta of its latest streaming media technology for the Internet and corporate networks.

RealNetworks is releasing the beta of its latest streaming media technology today for the Internet and corporate networks.

In recent months, the former Progressive Networks has changed its name, filed papers to go public, and taken an investment from streaming rival Microsoft as it attempts to translate its dominance in Internet media software into profitability.

RealSystem 5.0 spans the entire line of Real's audio and video players, servers, and publishing tools. Some improvements, such as full-screen video display, depend upon high-bandwidth connections. The company has also tweaked its compression technology for better small-frame audio and video delivery over 28.8- and 56-kbps dial-up modems, Real chief executive Rob Glaser said.

The system will now support streaming Flash animation from multimedia software maker Macromedia, which the two companies said would appear at a high quality even over a 28.8-kbps modem.

RealSystem 5.0 will give Web content producers the ability to restrict access to streaming media content. Users who want to watch a concert, for example, will have to register their individual RealSystem client or use a password. The RealSystem server software will include connections to transaction servers to help content providers collect online payments.

Producers will also be able to roll audio and video spots into their content more easily with back-end connections to advertisement servers.

The company hasn't finalized the list of components for RealSystem 5.0, but Glaser said it shouldn't differ too much from the company's current lineup, which includes both free and $30 versions of the player software and several servers, including a $5,000 high-end version.

Real will also include for the first time a low-end streaming and HTML publishing tool, RealPublisher, aimed at amateur site builders. RealPublisher will cost approximately $49, according to Glaser.

The RealSystem 5.0 beta is now available on RealNetworks Web site.

Microsoft now owns 10 percent of Real, and the investment along with its other activity in the streaming media market have spurred the Justice Department to investigate. (See related report) Despite the investment, which allowed Microsoft to license the RealAudio and Video 4.0 technology for its own NetShow media products, the software giant remains a Real competitor.

"Our relationship [with Microsoft] at this time does not extend to RealSystem 5.0," Glaser said. He declined to say if his company would license the package to Microsoft in the future.