Microsoft is turning up the heat on its rivals after unveiling new digital media products to send high-quality video and audio over the Internet.
The US giant says Windows Media Video 8 could enable near-DVD quality video to be sent over the Internet at transmission speeds as low as 500 kilobits per second.
That is still nearly 10 times faster than a common dial-up Internet connection.
But such speeds are becoming more common with the spread of high-speed internet access, such as cable or digital subscriber line (DSL) connections.
Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer also unveiled the latest version of the software firm's audio format, Windows Media Audio 8, promising it could deliver near-CD quality sound at a recording speed of 48 kbps. That means a song could be downloaded 60 per cent faster than an MP3 file of similar quality.
'We're focusing on digital media at Microsoft in a big way because it brings excitement to consumers and real economic benefits to businesses,' Mr Ballmer added.
However, arch rival RealNetworks, which has fought tooth and nail to defend its lead from Microsoft since pioneering the Internet media industry several years ago, scornfully dismissed the new products.
'Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,' Real spokesman David Brotherton said. …