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Progress on Advancing Streaming Media Standard

For the first time, the two major MPEG-4 standards bodies are putting their heads together for interoperability testing of the standard that is poised to propel the next generation of streaming media delivery.

The Internet Streaming Media Alliance and MPEG-4 Industry Forum announced the partnership Friday at the International Broadcasting Convention 2002 in Amsterdam. The firms have planned a joint event featuring ISMA v1.0 -based products and services in October where, for the first time, the 120 members of the two groups may test each others' MPEG-4 players and streams.

"To deliver on the promise of open MPEG-4 and IP standards [IETF], we must make sure that all elements in the ecosystem work together," said Tim Schaaff, Board member of ISMA and M4IF. "The market expects seamless interoperability between different products, and these test will ensure products and services will meet these expectations."

The ISMA v1.0 specification, which may be viewed at the ISMA site, defines an implementation agreement for streaming ISO-compliant MPEG-4 video and audio over Internet Protocols (IP).

Prior to this announcement, each group has held separate testing workshops to propel MPEG-4 products to the market faster. ISMA's interoperability program has held over 10 "Plug Fests" where member companies test and refine their ISMA v1.0 implementation. In turn, M4IF's interoperability program boasts over 30 participants who have exchanged MPEG-4 content for over a year.

ISMA is a non-profit corporation founded by Apple , Cisco Systems , IBM , Kasenna, Philips (PHG) and Sun Microsystems . M4IF addresses MPEG-4 adoption issues that go beyond the charter of ISO/IEC MPEG. Activities of the forum include an interoperability program, certification, working groups and access to ISO/MPEG committee members.

Supporters of the MPEG-4 standard will likely seen Friday's play as a positive, unifying experience. Rather than two separate groups doing their own thing, they now have each other's support in the face of what many analysts see as competing proprietary digital media software from the likes of Microsoft and RealNetworks .

Unfortunately for MPEG-4 proponents, neither is in a hurry to see MPEG-4 flourish in the market after cultivating their own successful products for the last several years. However, Microsoft and RealNetworks are busy enough ballting each other for digital media supremacy.

MPEG-4 also faces competition from such firm's as New York's On2, also knows as The Duck Corporation, which sells its own brand of open-source codecs.

Still, the market for MEPG-4 is lucrative. According to In-Stat/MDR, the popularity of MPEG compression gave rise to an MPEG video chip market with more than $1 billion in revenue in 2001, with annual unit shipments were over 100 million.