Microsofts Corona Targets Digital Media

With its new suite of platform technologies, Microsoft seeks to create next-generation streaming media experiences at lower costs.

Microsoft is increasing its focus on the world of streaming media. Between now and mid-2002, the company plans to release a new suite of digital media technologies, dubbed Corona, designed to create home-theater level streaming media quality for broadband users.

Will Poole, vice president of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft, announced the Corona suite of platform technolologies on Tuesday at the Streaming Media East conference in New York. According to Poole, the next generation of streaming media on the Web must include broadcast-quality experiences, and the costs of streaming must be brought down for "the entire digital media ecosystem." The Corona suite of technologies will be built around FastStream, which aims to provide instant-on, always-on availability of audio and video content, at speeds optimized for broadband users.

"For streaming on the Web to reach its full potential, it needs to break through todays limitations and provide a true broadcast-quality experience for broadband users who expect instant results and outstanding video quality," Poole said. "Windows Media Corona will create profitable and cost-saving opportunities for companies looking to develop and deliver Web-based digital media services."

At this point, only some of the component technologies for Corona are ready for beta testing. The first set of component technologies, entering beta testing now, is Windows Media Services in Windows .NET Server. The other technology components in the Corona platform wont be available for beta tests until early 2002. They include: new versions of Windows Media Player; Windows Media Audio and Video codecs (compression/decompression algorithms); Windows Media Encoder; and a new Windows Media Software Development Kit (SDK).

In addition to other Corona capabilities, Microsoft is showing how Windows Media supports DVD- and HDTV-quality programs at "vastly reduced data rates," said Richard Doherty, director of research at The Envisioneering Group. Within Corona, a new version of the Windows Media Video codec provides a 20 percent speed boost over the previous version, according to Microsofts specs, and the new codec will also "provide HDTV-like video quality at file sizes half that of todays DVDs, for local playback on PCs," according to a release from Microsoft. As it seeks to create cost efficiencies in the world of digital media with Corona, Microsoft will be focusing especially on file compression to lower bandwidth costs, server scalability, and the ability to program content.

The announcement of Corona comes on the heels of several recent announcements from various companies focusing on digital media. A week ago, for example, Real Networks announced its Real One Music service, which offers downloadable music by subscription. Research on the impact of various digital media technologies, such as the MPEG4 standard, is available through the Streaming Media East conferences Web site at