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Topic 366 of 395:

Tue, Dec 2, 1997 (04:14) | Forrest H. Stroud (buzz)
What do you do when your chosen technology doesn't exactly match up to the
competition's? Well, if you're Microsoft you either buy the competition
outright or you buy the rights to their technology. Microsoft NetShow is a
perfect example of the philosophy that if you can't beat 'em, buy 'em. Earlier
versions of NetShow offered Advanced Streaming Format (ASF), a real-time audio
and video streaming technology strong in its own right but unquestionably
rivaled by RealNetworks' RealVideo and RealAudio (RA/RV) streaming technology.
The success of Microsoft's ASF technology has also been limited by the fact that
Microsoft entered the scene well after the RealNetworks technology had gained a
majority of the multimedia on-demand market share.

With considerable ground to be made up in terms of both performance and
reputation, Microsoft appears to have decided its best move would be to
incorporate the RealAudio and RealVideo technology into its NetShow player. By
integrating the competition's technology into its own software, Microsoft has
once again pulled a trump card that could have dire consequences for the
competition (deja vu a la Netscape and Quicken). But RealNetworks also has an
ace up its sleeve, so before Microsoft is given the nod over RealPlayer, it
helps to consider NetShow's strengths as well as its weaknesses.

In terms of distinctive competencies, NetShow's most promising is its
versatility. With a combination of both ASF and RA/RV multimedia formats under
its belt, NetShow delivers compatibility with more existing real-time audio and
video content than any other client currently available. NetShow benefits from
an edge in cross-platform compatibility as well, with versions currently
available for Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 3.x, Macintosh, and UNIX. NetShow
also offers the ability to create and serve both live and on-demand multimedia
content using either the standard NetShow Server client or the premier NetShow
Theater Server designed specifically for Windows NT 4.0 Server. The basic
server will enable you to deliver streamed multimedia in both ASF and RA/RV
formats and is similar to RealNetworks' Basic Server. The NetShow Theater
Server, now in beta release, provides a more powerful platform for delivering
MPEG-quality full-motion, full-screen video across high-bandwidth networks and
dedicated video LANs.

NetShow also excels at flexibility through its excellent support for web
browsers and similar 'net apps. The freeware NetShow client installs a
standalone player on your desktop as well as a plug-in for Netscape (and similar
browsers) and an ActiveX control for Internet Explorer. Tools for encoding and
administering real-time multimedia content and the standard NetShow Server
client are also included in this package (NetShow Theater Server can be
downloaded separately for free as well). The interface of the client is
strikingly similar to that of RealPlayer v4.0 and offers all of the basic
controls that one would expect to find in an audio/video player.

The most noticeable shortcoming of NetShow is that while the client does offer
integrated RealAudio and RealVideo content, it does so only through use of the
older version of the RealPlayer software (v4.0). RealNetworks has since
released version 5.0 of RealPlayer which improves on the audio and video quality
side of the equation and also adds new support for "RealFlash" animation content
synchronized with RealAudio. Another shortcoming of NetShow is that it
currently requires two different players -- one for playing files in the ASF
format and another for those in the RA/RV format. While the dual player aspect
of NetShow is expected to be improved upon with the next major release of the
client, the fact that two players are currently required is still a surprising
deficiency from a company like Microsoft.

The bottom line is that although Microsoft NetShow has come a long way since its
initial debut, it still trails RealPlayer by a sizable margin. The fact that
NetShow (v2.0) is built into Microsoft Internet Explorer will undoubtedly help
NetShow in its uphill battle against RealPlayer. But as long as RealNetworks
can continue to stay one step ahead of Microsoft as it has done with with the
latest release of RealPlayer, NetShow will have a difficult time trying to
overcome the current king of multimedia streaming.

Pros: Impressive real-time audio and video on demand, freeware, Active Streaming and RealMedia content
Cons: Lacks the advanced features of RealPlayer Plus and the updated features of RealPlayer 5.0

For the latest information on Microsoft NetShow, check out:
2 responses total.

 Topic 366 of 395 [apps]: 
 Response 1 of 2: Anton Bantchoukov  (Anton) * Sun, Dec  7, 1997 (12:40) * 1 lines 
Hello! My name is Anton.

 Topic 366 of 395 [apps]: 
 Response 2 of 2: Paul Terry Walhus (terry) * Sun, Dec  7, 1997 (17:43) * 2 lines 
Howdy Anton, welcome! How'd you find us?

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