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Diamond, RioPort Launch Digital Download Platform

Diamond Multimedia Systems Inc. Thursday rolled out a digital download platform featuring a portal, a player, and a download management solution in an effort to put its RipPort subsidiary in the center of the digital download phenom which is moving further into the mainstream.

Diamond Multimedia also officially launched wholly-owned RioPort Inc., chartering the company with a new integrated digital audio platform which incorporates all three new plays.

RioPort's digital audio platform will include the RioPort.com content and services portal, Rio Audio Manager software to manage content downloaded from the Internet to the playback device and a new line of portable players, the first of which is the Rio 500. The platform is expected to be fully deployed in August.

The company also announced several partnerships which play into the new platform, including deals for additional digital audio content and security technology.

The RioPort.com portal will deliver digital music and spoken audio content, as well as access to playback hardware, management software and audio tools. The site is expected to go live in August and is being developed in conjunction with Internet solutions provider iXL.

Spoken word content will include digital novels, audio newspapers, radio shows and television transcripts. Personalized services, news content and ticket sales will also be available. Online shopping offerings listed include portable digital audio players, CDs and accessories.

RioPort has allied with content sources and additional tools for creating content, such as SonicFoundry. RioPort music and spoken audio content is provided by Audible, MP3.com, EMusic, and more than 100 others. Users will be able to download software players, MP3 encoders and decoders, and utility products. The portal also offers personalization options.

The Rioport.com gateway will be linked to the desktop through Rio Audio Manager software, which allows consumers to search, locate, create and playback digital audio content.

RioPort's new 64MB Rio 500 digital audio player will also be available in August. The player is compatible with both PC and Macintosh platforms and uses a USB connection.

Rio 500 will support both InterTrust's DRM solution for secure content delivery, as well as Microsoft's secure end-to-end digital distribution API. RioPort's new partnership with Reciprocal will cover the system's royalty tracking and payments platform.

The new Rio supports playback formats including MP3, MPEG2.5, G.723 (Audible) and ADPMC.

"The Rio player allows people to take content off the desktop and into their active lifestyles, said J.D. Heilprin, RioPort.com's publisher and general manager.

Rio Audio Manager software will be included in the new Rio 500 player, and will allow users direct access to RioPort.com.

Upcoming Rio designs will support Microsoft's Windows Media Player and IBM's new high-capacity MicroDrives.

RioPort is also targeting the spoken audio programming market with the new initiative, which is worth $2 billion, according to the Audio Book Publishers Association. Research firm Forrester Research projects the digital download market alone will add $1.1 billion to the U.S. market by 2003.