Microsoft announces streaming beta, ISMA formed

Microsoft on Tuesday made a number of announcements regarding its streaming software, including the beta launch of Windows Media Audio and Video 8, as five other companies said they have formed an alliance to foster standards for media streaming over IP (Internet Protocol).

In a keynote address at Streaming Media West 2000 in San Jose, California, Microsoft president and CEO Steve Ballmer said Windows Media Audio and Video 8 represents quality improvements of as much as 30 per cent over previous compression technologies.

For example, Windows Media Video 8 digital media compression technology crosses the 500Kbps threshold, enabling the delivery of film content at near-DVD (digital versatile disc) quality, the release said. Windows Media Audio 8 achieves similar improvements, offering near-CD quality sound at 48Kbps, which enables file sizes almost one-third those of MP3-formatted music of similar audio quality, Microsoft said.

Windows Media Audio and Video 8 is fully compatible with existing Windows Media Players including version 6.4 and 7, and Windows Media Audio 8 offers integrated digital rights management technology.

Ballmer said Windows Media Player 8 will be one of the digital media features of the next version of Windows, code-named "Whistler". For business customers who want to make more extensive use of streaming media, Ballmer showed a pre-release version of Windows Media Producer, a tool that provides "knowledge workers" an intuitive way to create and publish rich media content.

Ballmer also announced the immediate availability of Windows Media Player 7 for the Pocket PC. The software offers users the ability to download and play Windows Media Audio and Video content. Users will be able to download videos such as news clips, music videos and Windows Media and MP3 music from the Web directly onto their Pocket PC.

In addition, Ballmer unveiled the first CD player to support the Windows Media audio format. The new Kenwood DPC-MP727 portable CD player can deliver more than 22 hours of CD-quality music on a single recorded CD, Microsoft said.

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