Xing Technology Corp, based in Arroyo Grande, California but majority owned by Japanese typewriter king Brother Industries Ltd, looks set to give Seattle, Washington-based Progressive Networks Inc’s RealAudio a run for its money. Xing, an expert in Motion Picture Expert Group compression, has introduced StreamWorks, which integrates with World Wide Web browsers to offer real-time […]
Xing Technology Corp, based in Arroyo Grande, California but majority owned by Japanese typewriter king Brother Industries Ltd, looks set to give Seattle, Washington-based Progressive Networks Inc’s RealAudio a run for its money. Xing, an expert in Motion Picture Expert Group compression, has introduced StreamWorks, which integrates with World Wide Web browsers to offer real-time sound transmission over the Internet. Moreover, the company goes one step better in that it is also offering real-time video transmission for those that have fast enough Internet connections and fast enough personal computers to decode them. However, despite the technical allure of sending video, the company is initially concentrating on getting radio stations interested in broadcas ting over the Internet. It claims 100 will be signed up by the end of the year. StreamWorks comprises four components: server software, the client software, an audio-video compression engine and an audio-only compression engine. The company claims a couple of benefits over RealAudio: in particular the server software can encode in real-time and pass it on to users. RealAudio, by contrast, is limited to delivering pre-encoded files.
Rock, blues and humour
In addition, Xing said its server can adjust its encoding techniques depending on the speed of the link to which the user has access. One radio station using both StreamWorks and RealAudio is KPIG of Freedom, California, near Santa Cruz. The station has been offering RealAudio snippets of its programming for a while, but is now using StreamWorks to transmit its mixture of rock, blues and humour across the Internet. The station offers two feed-rates to its listeners – a slower 8.5Kbps version for slow modem links and a 24Kbps feed. Comparing the two technologies, KPIG’s chief engineer and morning presenter Wild Bill Goldsmith said Most people find the Streamworks 8.5Kbps audio feed to be superior in sound quality to RealAudio, which uses about the same bandwidth. The Streamworks feed is less grungy and handles music far more gracefully than RealAudio. Streamworks also offers higher bit-rate options that allow for med-fi and hi-fi feeds, mono or stereo, that are truly music-quality. The company is retaining its RealAudio content on the server said Goldsmith, on the grounds that there are already so many audio players out there. He said that the radio station approached RealAudio about doing a real-time feed, however they seem to be moving slowly on it. Phil Barrett, vice-president of software development at Progressive Networks, said the company will be announcing real-time encoding for RealAudio in the next couple of weeks. He also said the RealAudio architecture is specifically designed to be able to take new compression algorithms. New coder-decoder modules will be released for the RealAudio player in due course, he said; these may improve low bit-rate or music quality. But why is a local radio station interested in broadcasting internationally? Quite simply, the station is hoping to use its programmes as a free teaser to get people visiting its money-spinning Web site. I don’t see us turning a profit on our NetCast for at least a couple of years, although who knows how fast this will take off? For now, we are primarily interested in attracting attention to our Web site where we do intend to start making money within a few months said Goldsmith. The Streamworks browser is available now for Windows and X Window, with a Macintosh version coming later in the year. The company is pricing the browser at $30, though it is possible to download it for free, forfeiting technical support. The server software costs $3,500 for a T1 or lower Internet connection and $6,500 for a higher-capacity Internet connection, and is available for a number of Unix variants with Windows NT later this year. Real time encoding requires a separate dedicated machine the company sells as a package. The audio-only encoder costs $2,500. For those that want to encode video two will need a more sophisticated encoding station
priced at $6,500 which was due to be available at the end of last month.