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.”

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