Progressive Networks Wants to Drown out All Other Web Sounds

Article excerpt

Progressive Networks wants to rule the world - the Internet world of sound.

The privately held Seattle company gained renown as the creator of RealAudio, a so-called streaming-audio technology that people use to tune in live concerts, radio stations and other audible material on a Web site without having to download enormous sound files.

Although there are other streaming-media companies, Progressive Networks is a standout. Since RealAudio's debut in 1995, people have downloaded 8 million player s - or the software needed to use the technology - available free on Progressive Networks' Web site (http:-//www.realaudio.com). Players also come bundled with copies of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser, and are one of the most popular helper applications for Netscape's Navigator browser. Several thousand Web sites air 7,500 hours of programming a week using RealAudio servers, which begin at $500 and run into the tens of thousands of dollars for systems that "stream" to hundreds of listeners simultaneously. None of this is good enough for Rob Glaser, the ex-Microsoft executive who used the considerable cash he made from Microsoft stock options to form Progressive Networks in 1994. As Glaser learned at Microsoft, successful companies don't live by technology alone, but by combining technical savvy with business smarts. So Glaser and his lieutenants - including a dozen fellow Microsoft alumni - are attempting to solidify their place in the market by constantly improving their technology base and building relationships with key partners. It's a mission that's led to a number of announcements over the past few months, including: A pact with Netscape, which had also been developing audio standards. On Oct. 14, the partners - and 38 supporters including Apple, Digital, Hewlett Packard and IBM - announced a compromise called real-time streaming protocol (RTSP) that they hope will be adopted as the HTML of audio programming. The parties have submitted the RTSP proposal to an Internet rules body called the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is expected to take about six months to consider the issue. A next-generation multimedia technology called RealMedia Architecture that, along with sound, will stream graphics, animation and eventually video to an Internet user's RealMedia player. An upgraded RealAudio 3. …