RealTime IT News

WebTV Audio Delayed Until Y2K

Common Internet audio features won't be available to WebTV users until next year, even though Microsoft subsidiary WebTV previously announced they would arrive in 1999.

Although WebTV struck an agreement with RealNetworks Inc. (RNWK) several months ago to bring "streaming" audio to the TV set-top service, "technical difficulties" have held up those plans, company executives have acknowledged. The project remains on the horizon, the executives said.

Last July, the company announced it would bring RealNetworks' G2 streaming media player to WebTV subscribers.

Under the terms of the agreement, WebTV users were to gain access streaming, or real-time, audio feeds from Web sites delivered by Real's G2 technology.

The deal was restricted to audio feeds. It did not include streaming video feeds, like those used on some news and information Web sites.

In addition, since its 1997 acquisition, WebTV has refocused its strategy to concentrate on more "enhanced" television features, rather than simple Internet service.

But the perception that Microsoft's (MSFT) ownership influenced the technologies available on WebTV were fueled by the fact that the company had been public about its intent to support leading Web technologies when it was independent.

"In terms of G2 support, we are late," a spokeswoman for WebTV said. "We had planned and hoped to get that out to subscribers by the end of the year, but the intricacies of adopting the technology to the TV browser format was more complex than we hoped."