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October 7, 1998

SUN, IBM TOUT UNIVERSAL PLAYER, AS A FRAMEWORK

By CBR Staff Writer

Sun Microsystems Inc and IBM Corp have created what amounts to a universal media player in Java which they hope will be used to develop and view all kinds of streaming media. But they don’t appear to have determined quite how what they call version 2.0 of the Java Media Framework is to be positioned. The idea is not to put the Real Networks of the world out of business but to encourage it and other media player suppliers and content creators to support the Framework. Real Networks and several other companies have already committed to do this. In this scenario users would only require the Framework, including the relevant media players, on their desktops, to support multiple file formats. Director of IBM’s internet media strategy and market development Willy Chiu went so far as to claim the API set will be the last plug in you’ll ever need. It sounds like a big deal, so then why call a universal media player a framework (a guaranteed turn off) and why position it as an API that makes it easier to add streaming applications to e-business applications? In any event the industry isn’t simply going to hand Sun and IBM control of this market. Even though the two say the specifications will be made publicly available by year-end along with a beta version (general ships are expected next spring), Java remains a Sun-stewarded environment. The two have not yet even decided how they will get the thing to market. Ideally it would be bundled with JVMs – the code was jointly-developed – but they say they are also exploring bundling it with browsers. The Framework supports 25 file formats and codacs and uses conventional VCR-type playback controls. Depending on how many types of file formats the user wants to support the Framework’s footprint would range from 200Kb to several megabytes.

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