Tech Industry

RealNetworks tests G2

The streaming media firm releases beta versions of its G2 technology, designed to improve sound quality for third-party multimedia formats.

RealNetworks today released the beta versions of streaming multimedia products featuring its new G2 technology.

G2 technology--the name stands for "second generation"--is designed to improve sound quality and extend support for third-party multimedia formats such as MPEG, AVI, JPEG, and WAV, according to RealNetworks.

The G2 products are among the first to support the newly recommended W3C specification known as Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language, or SMIL (pronounced "smile"). SMIL is designed to synchronize text, sound, and images delivered over the Web with comparatively small bandwidth demands.

G2 also supports the Real Time Streaming Protocol, a new standard for streaming media delivery.

Another new G2 feature is SmartStream, a transport technology that dynamically adjusts the quality of transmission according to the bandwidth available. SmartStream will eliminate the occasional gaps in sound characteristic of current streaming products, the firm said.

RealNetworks released a preview version of the G2 products in May, and will issue a final release later this year. But the company is promoting the current release as the "preferred" download.

The company today also announced 50 content providers--including NEWS.COM's CNET Radio--that are supporting the G2 systems. Twenty of these also will provide SMIL-based multimedia content.

The introduction of G2 technology will mark a point of departure between RealNetworks and its minority investor Microsoft. Microsoft owns a 10 percent stake in the company, enjoys a source code sharing agreement for systems prior to G2, and makes a competing streaming product dubbed NetShow.

With the introduction of the G2 technology, content designed for the new Real Networks system will not be playable with Microsoft's NetShow.

Microsoft's relationship with RealNetworks has been precarious for both parties. On the part of Microsoft, which also has acquired a minority stake in video streaming firm VDOnet and bought VXtreme outright, the RealNetworks investment and licensing deals have drawn the interest of antitrust investigators.

On RealNetworks' part, Microsoft's streaming endeavors pose the only significant threat to the company's current hegemony in the market. More than 85 percent of Web sites that stream media use RealNetworks' products, according to the company.