RealNetworks Licenses Windows Media

REDMOND, Wash., Mar. 14, 2000 — Recent industry announcements — including today’s announcement that RealNetworks, Inc. has licensed Windows Media technology — show that Windows Media is taking major steps toward becoming the industry’s universal format for digital media. In addition to RealNetworks, Liquid Audio, Yahoo!, AOL, and dozens of other key companies now support Windows Media, opening the door to the first common, open and secure digital media format for major portable digital music devices, digital media players, jukeboxes and content providers.

This industry momentum is underscored by Media Metrix’ SoftUsage Report, which shows that the Windows Media Player was used more than any other multimedia player among U.S. PC households in December 1999. Adoption of Windows Media Format has grown dramatically in recent months, winning support from top record labels, makers of leading portable music devices and digital media players, and large corporations such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Aetna and SAS.

“Windows Media is simplifying the delivery of digital media for content providers and driving competition in the industry to deliver more and better products,”
said Will Poole, general manager of the Digital Media Division, Microsoft. “As a result, Windows Media is making it easy for consumers to enjoy their favorite digital music and video in any application and on any device.

Microsoft openly licenses the Windows Media Format, which has been incorporated into the major digital media players including Sonic Foundry Siren, AOL Winamp, Lycos Sonique, MusicMatch Jukebox, Midisoft’s Internet Media Player, iCast iCaster, and Microsoft’s own Windows Media Player. Licensing the Windows Media SDK allows companies like RealNetworks to add Windows Media playback and encoding abilities to their applications. By eliminating the constraints of multiple formats and incompatible players, Windows Media will give consumers the ability to listen to their music regardless of the device or player on which it is played.

Until now, music labels and artists have had to deploy multiple formats across multiple servers to offer consumers a broad range of content. The adoption of a single format that works with a variety of digital media players and portable music devices greatly reduces infrastructure and production costs associated with offering multiple formats. Content owners get the benefit of Windows Media’s built-in digital rights management technology, making it a perfect choice for content owners who want to protect their music from illegal distribution on the Internet.

“By supporting the high-quality Windows Media Format and DRM technology, Liquid Audio is providing customers with increased flexibility and choice for digital music distribution,” said Gerry Kearby, CEO of Liquid Audio.

Microsoft’s Digital Media Division provides Windows Media digital audio and video technology for personal computers and consumer electronics devices. The Digital Media Division focuses on four areas: Broadband Internet, Digital Music, Consumer Electronics and Business and Solutions.

Broadband Internet

The emergence of DSL and cable connected homes has paved the way for the delivery of CD-quality music and near-broadcast-quality video. Microsoft has formed alliances with key infrastructure players, including leading providers of broadband access, content companies, encoding companies, and content distribution networks to drive rapid availability and adoption of broadband content and access.

“As consumers rapidly adopt digital media into their everyday Web experience, high-quality audio and video delivery with reliability are absolutely critical to meet customer needs,” said Eric Danke, member of the board of management at T-Online. “Windows Media surpassed our initial expectations when we evaluated the technology, and it clearly will give us a competitive edge as we continue to develop our broadband Internet services.”

Digital Music

The music industry is critical to advancing the digital media revolution. Windows Media is a key part of enabling the rapid adoption of digital music by offering advanced compression and digital rights management capabilities.

“Microsoft Windows Media provides Atomic Pop with a high-quality audio and video format through which we can expand our secure downloading options for customers and generate increased sales of our diverse multimedia content online,
“said Al Teller, CEO of Atomic Pop.”
With the added promotional support from Microsoft, we expect to increase our global customer base significantly.”

Microsoft is enabling the traditional music industry to take its content to the Internet by offering the format with superior sound quality and compression as well as built-in digital rights management. A recent study by ZD Labs demonstrated that music encoded in Windows Media Format sounded more like a compact disc recording at half the size of an MP3 file.

Consumer Electronics

Microsoft is committed to taking digital music beyond the PC. Licensing Windows Media to chip manufacturers such as Texas Instruments and Cirrus Logic means manufacturers of portable music devices can offer digital content that customers want — whenever and wherever they want it. Portable devices such as the RCA Lyra and the I-Jam let the consumer take their favorite music anywhere. Windows Media also offers superior audio quality at the smallest file size — crucial in portable devices with limited memory. The DCT 5000+ cable set-top box from General Instrument and the Sonicbox TM imBand Remote Tuner allow digital music to travel to televisions and home stereos, respectively. Support for such a broad array of non-PC devices is giving music enthusiasts the power to quickly download music from the Internet, distribute it throughout the home and workplace, or take it on the road.

Business Solutions

Companies are rapidly adopting Windows Media and discovering the benefits of using streaming media within their organizations to set up virtual company meetings, promote
“just-in-time”
learning, and communicating quickly and efficiently among employees, partners and customers amid changing business conditions. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, SAS Institute and Aetna have implemented Windows Media for internal training purposes and found that savings in travel costs and materials alone covered the costs of installing Windows Media.

“We are committed to making the innovative use of technology our competitive differential,” said John Brighton, CIO for Aetna. “Windows Media streaming audio and video technology is helping us bring our employees closer together to deliver timely, mission-critical business information at Internet speed. Over the next three years, Aetna will save half a million dollars in training costs alone,” Brighton added. “And with travel, probably double that.”

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Q&A: The Future of Digital Media

Will Poole, general manager of Microsoft’s Digital Media Division, talks with PressPass about today’s announcement that RealNetworks has license Windows Media and how that decision further illustrates the technology’s strength as the industry’s leading digital media format.