Progressive-MS deal firms up streaming standards

Progressive Networks' RealAudio and RealVideo streaming products got a shot in the arm today with the news that Microsoft plans to take a minority investment in the firm and license its key products, RealAudio and RealVideo 4.0.

Progressive Networks' RealAudio and RealVideo streaming products got a shot in the arm today with the news that Microsoft plans to take a minority investment in the firm and license its key products, RealAudio and RealVideo 4.0.

As part of the deal, Microsoft will incorporate Progressive technologies into Internet Explorer clients and the NetShow streaming server, and the firms will collaborate on making respective server and client products work together.

In turn, Progressive will support Microsoft's Active Streaming Format (ASF) as well as its own file formats, and use Microsoft's DirectShow and DirectDraw APIs and other technologies in the next versions of its Windows clients.

Microsoft will distribute Progressive Networks' EasyStart RealAudio and RealVideo Server with NetShow 2.0 "until Microsoft releases a product compatible with RealAudio and RealVideo", the firms said in a press statement. Details of the minority investment and other payments to Progressive remain private.

"This prevents a standards war and lets us come up with a common standard," said John Beyer, VP of Europe for Progressive. "We're tapping into their strengths which are distribution and platforms."

Beyer said Progressive would not be tied into a Microsoft-only development path. "We're still on Unix, Mac and just about anybody on the server side. This is a non-exclusive deal on both sides. We made an agreement to collaborate but will continue to compete."

Beyer added that the deal would make Progressive's streaming technologies a natural fit with Microsoft's burgeoning interest in interactive television services. "The companies share a fundamental belief that the streaming market is going to be really big. This avoids something that we've seen in software before: like 20 months spent in standards development."

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