Microsoft yesterday showed off its next generation Windows Media Technology, code-named "Corona", which it hopes will improve Internet media streaming capabilities in terms of audio and video quality, as well as reducing bandwidth consumption.
In a simultaneous announcement, five major DVD chipmakers - Cirrus Logic, ESS Technology, LSI Logic, STMicroelectronics and Zoran - together comprising 90 per cent of the market, say they will include support for Windows Media in their next generation DVD players.
This is a breakthrough for Microsoft, pushing it deeper into consumer markets. Its media technology can already be found in mobile phones and other devices, but this is its first big win in the consumer video market.
The new DVD players will be able to play Windows Media Audio (WMA) initially and Windows Media Video (WMV) later on.
As MS points out, a music CD burned with WMA can hold 22 hours of audio, while WMV will allow a full-length film to be stored in as little as 350MB, due to improved compression technology. Using WMV, users could store a collection of movies on a single DVD disc.
Consumer DVD players capable of playing WMA CDs are expected in stores in early 2002, while WMV-supporting players should ship later in the year.
Corona, Microsoft's upcoming media technology, introduces 'Fast Stream', designed to eliminate buffering delays for broadband users, delivering "instant-on" media streaming. It also promises to allow users to browse easily across audio and video streams, much like flipping TV channels.
New 'Professional' codecs enable streaming of 5.1-channel surround sound (24 bit, 96 KHz sampling) and 720 x 1,280 video at 24 frames per second, bringing it closer to HDTV quality.
Microsoft hopes this will allow users to watch high-quality video streamed across the Internet without compromising on video or audio performance.
The first new application - Windows Media Services (WMS), a server-side app that delivers the Fast Stream component and other enhancements - is available for beta testing, while the rest (WMP, WMA, Windows Media Encoder, etc.) are scheduled to appear early next year. ®