RealNetworks to support MPEG-4

RealNetworks on Tuesday said it will support a new open standard for digital video and audio in a surprise move that could help the company's wireless efforts and perhaps pave the way for greater interoperability in the notoriously fragmented streaming media industry.

The company said it will support the MPEG-4 standard in upcoming versions of its RealSystem iQ and RealOne media player products, and provide compatibility in the interim through plug-ins from partner Envivio. RealNetworks also said it has joined the 3GPP, or Third Generation Partnership Project, a standards group aimed at setting technical specifications for third generation (3G) mobile systems.

Standards advocates say MPEG-4 could offer interactive enhancements over current formats and greatly simplify sending digital audio and video over the Internet--a process complicated by a bitter rivalry between RealNetworks and Microsoft.

In backing MPEG-4, however, industry experts said RealNetworks appeared less interested in helping the goals of interoperability than in bolstering its own position in wireless streaming, where carriers and device makers appear to be gravitating toward MPEG-4 over proprietary formats. The proposed standard would succeed MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, which fueled the MP3 Internet music revolution.

"This is an extremely big public change for Real," said Bill Bernat, technology editor for Streaming Media, an industry research company. "It's a pretty big concession for them to say they need MPEG-4 this early on and that they need to be good at it."

News source: CNET

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