ZIFFPAGE TITLEWindow Media Player 9

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2003-04-21 Print this article Print

Series"> LU: What about the impact of Window Media Player 9 Series?
RG: My sense is, its actually kind of an interesting dynamic. Microsoft, for reasons that I dont understand—but I welcome—seems to be trying to cram a proprietary Microsoft-only agenda down the throat of the entire consumer electronics industry, and the entire mobile industry, and the entire media industry. We had a booth at NAB last week showing our player working on mobile phones that support mobile standards like 3GPP. We also showed our player supporting MP3 and MPEG4 and RealAudio and RealVideo. We give people a choice between the unique advantage of our innovative, award-winning, proprietary codec and support for all the other standards. If you look at the Microsoft agenda, its all about the Windows Media 9 codec and why its better than MPEG4. Microsoft wants its codec to be the thing that the industry embraces. I have to tell you that the harder Microsoft pushes an anti-common-standards agenda, the better it is for us. So I certainly encourage Microsoft to keep pushing its uniquely proprietary agenda. If youre looking for mainstream solutions in the marketplace, youve got two choices. One embraces open standards and in fact is built on an open source foundation—Helix—while the other one is tied to Microsoft operating systems. For the primary formats that theyre pushing and the primary formats that theyre wrapping with the DRM, the whole agenda is Microsoft.
Were having this conversation in the month of the tenth anniversary of the Web browser. I think history shows that if one company, even a super-powerful company, pushes a proprietary solution and the rest of the industry is behind open standards, open standards win.
LU: Whats your take on Microsofts move into digital cinema and theaters?
RG: I think Microsoft focusing on high-end digital movie theaters is great. I think its a great boon to all the little companies that have been making the old 35-millimeter sprocket projects. Its a pretty low-volume market—but I certainly think its kind of neat from a technical standpoint. Well focus on the 100 million phone handsets that Nokia ships every year, or the 50 million PlayStation 2s that are installed. I dont want to say that well ignore the market of the 20 digital theaters that are out there capable of playing satellite-delivered movies. You know, well probably go after that market eventually, but well probably wait till its a little more of a volume play. LU: Whats the playback quality on these small devices like the Nokia?
RG: In terms of, actually, the CPU of those devices, you can get a pretty darned good frame rate if youve got a couple hundred [kilobit] stream. If you look at the image quality on the screen itself, its pretty darn good. The bigger issue is network bandwidth. Were in this period where were getting good data rates. I would say were getting data rates that are like the data rates we got when we launched RealAudio in 1995. Youre getting 24 kilobits now on the GPRS networks, and thats in the US. On the CDM networks like Sprint and Verizon, youre probably getting 40 or 50 kilobits depending a little bit on coverage area. So what that means as a practical matter is that these devices, like the Nokia, are great streaming audio devices. Theyre very fine video downloading devices, though the streaming video at this point is more of a technology demonstration. That doesnt become a reliably deliverable consumer experience until you have the 3G services. But as I can tell you from the launch of RealNetworks, we spent our first two years just doing streaming audio and didnt even do video until 97. We figured, hey, that doing video that looks more like pop art than a visible video stream isnt doing anybody any good. Well have some video download services if you just want to get a movie trailer and watch it, but in terms of streaming content, well mostly be doing audio—the stuff we did back in 95 with the PC. So in the everything-old-is-new-again world, were seeing familiar trends in the mobile market. The carriers are doing the thing that we hoped they would do, which is being super-aggressive on the next-generation image phones and camera phones that are also media-player phones. Were starting the process of educating consumers that mobile media creation and delivery is becoming a very practical reality. It can become part of peoples lives, just like PC streaming started to be in 95.

Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched AskDrPC.com, and KidRaves.com and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, Winmag.com won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join Deja.com as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched PCMag.com in July 2001. The new PCMag.com was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, PCMag.com regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and PCMag.com, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for PCMag.com and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New YorkÔÇÖs Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNewsÔÇÖ Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media WireÔÇÖs Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC MagazineÔÇÖs weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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