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RealNetworks, TI Forge DSP Alliance

Semiconductor maker Texas Instruments and Internet media delivery giant RealNetworks announced they've broadened their alliance to offer an integrated streaming audio and video solution for a range of devices powered by TI's high-end digital signal processors.

Under the deal announced Monday, TI will embed RealAudio and RealVideo in its TMS320C6000 DSP platform of high-end digital signal processors - its fastest DSPs used in video infrastructure equipment and broadband video client devices.

Use of the high-speed processors would enable access to streaming audio and video on the Internet in devices such as IP set-top boxes, network video appliances, personal video recorders, streaming media servers, IP video phones and other gear.

The deal builds upon a strategic alliance between the two companies announced in January. At that time, TI and RealNetworks partnered to provide Internet multimedia solutions for next-generation wireless and digital audio devices.

The latest agreement "allows TI to provide video and imaging customers an easy, integrated interface to more than 85 percent of the streaming media content on the Internet," said Pradeep Bardia, Texas Instrument's worldwide strategic marketing manager for DSP Video and Imaging. For equipment makers, "this will speed time-to-market for more differentiated, next-generation, broadband video streaming products," he said.

The announcement advances RealNetworks' promise to extend RealPlayer (now with more than 200 million registered users) to next-generation electronics devices. The Seattle-based company cited more than a dozen strategic agreements in the consumer appliance market, including deals with set-top box manufacturers, console makers, cell phone makers and other Internet appliances.

Among the deals RealNetworks has announced to help it take its technology beyond PCs includes one with Sony to include RealPlayer on the PlayStation 2 game console and another with Hewlett-Packard to create Linux-based entertainment products.

The mobile market is also heating up. Last month, RealNetworks announced mobile multimedia offerings based on the Symbian mobile handset platform. RealPlayer Mobile is shipping with the new Symbian-based Nokia 9210 Communicator handset available in Europe. Other handset manufacturers are expected to follow suit and employ RealNetworks' technology.

Mark Bretl, vice president of media systems for RealNetworks, said the latest agreement with TI "ultimately benefits consumer electronics OEM customers -- this integrated platform will allow these OEMs to quickly embed streaming media capability into their DSP-based devices at a significantly reduced bill of material costs."

The TI C6000 DSPs with integrated RealAudio and RealVideo are scheduled to be available to equipment makers in the fourth quarter this year.