Microsoft puts pressure on RealNetworks; Xing extricates itself

Microsoft is keeping the pressure on RealNetworks, which accused the software giant of software sabotage last week, while a company that sided last week with RealNetworks has distanced itself from the dispute. Xing Technologies, named by RealNetworks President Rob Glaser last week as another company that saw its media player 'broken' by Microsoft's new Windows Media Player, posted a statement to its Web site to 'clarify some questions.' Xing also was removed from the statement RealNetworks had posted on its Web site.

Microsoft is keeping the pressure on RealNetworks, which accused the software giant of software sabotage last week, while a company that sided last week with RealNetworks has distanced itself from the dispute.

Xing Technologies, named by RealNetworks President Rob Glaser last week as another company that saw its media player "broken" by Microsoft's new Windows Media Player, posted a statement to its Web site to "clarify some questions." Xing also was removed from the statement RealNetworks had posted on its Web site.

"Both the Windows Media Player and the XingMPEG Player have the ability to play back MPEG content," Xing said in its statement. "When the Xing player is installed on a PC with the Windows Media Player, it will replace the Windows Media Player as the default player of MPEG content. Just like the XingMPEG Player, when Windows Media Player is installed after the Xing player, the Windows Media Player automatically becomes the default MPEG player."

"For both the XingMPEG Player and Windows Media Player, the last player installed will become the default MPEG player and each follow an identical behavior pattern in this regard," Xing said. The text of Xing's statement is at http://www.xingtech.com/press/clarify.html.

Last Thursday, Glaser demonstrated for the US Senate Judiciary Committee how the Windows Media Player would damage the beta of RealNetworks' RealSystem G2. G2 is the next version of RealPlayer, which Glaser contended also was "broken" by Microsoft.

Microsoft officials immediately cried foul, declaring after testing that a bug in the RealNetworks software, not malicious intent by Microsoft, was the root of the problems.

In a teleconference the following day, Glaser attempted to paint the issue as an industrywide one, not only a battle between RealNetworks and Microsoft. He said media players by Xing and Digital Bitcasting also were hurt by the Windows Media Player.

In addition to officials from Microsoft-rival Netscape and the Software Publishers Association, which has opposed Microsoft in its legal battle with the US Department of Justice, a representative of Digital Bitcasting spoke during Glaser's news conference. No one from Xing participated.

Representatives from Xing, based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and RealNetworks did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Microsoft alternately chastised RealNetworks and offered to work with the company in a letter to Glaser that was posted to the company's Web site. Microsoft last year made a 10%investment in the media technology company and licensed its RealPlayer 4.0 and earlier versions.

Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's Windows marketing director, told Glaser -- a former Microsoft executive -- that "your claims that we somehow intentionally disable your beta were troubling and frankly a little frustrating ..."

"The G2 player is not registering itself properly in the Netscape [Navigator] registry tree, which is the cause of the error message you demonstrated at the hearing -- not the interaction between the Windows Media Player and the G2 beta," Mehdi wrote.

"Microsoft's product, like yours and products from Xing, Digital Bitcasting, and many others, changes the default playback method for various formats of multimedia content," Mehdi said. "The user has many options to change this default after the players are installed. No software is 'disabled' in this process."

Microsoft Corp. is at http://www.microsoft.com. RealNetworks Inc., in Seattle, is at http://www.real.com. Xing Technologies Inc. is at http://www.xingtech.com.

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