Progressive's key advantage in becoming the standard: its track record and its brand. General Manager Philip Rosedale said more than 10 million PC users-about one-fourth of those on the Internet-have installed the free RealAudio software. He expects them to upgrade quickly to the free RealPlayer software to run Real-Audio and RealVideo.
TOO EARLY FOR CONSUMERS
RealVideo's quality is impressive by PC standards, though it's nowhere near TV quality.
Harry Fenik, a VP with Zona Research, believes RealVideo has potential to be the live video standard, but he says it may not make sense for keepers of consumer Web sites to add video just yet.
Josh Bernoff, a Forrester senior analyst, doesn't expect video to be commonplace on sites for two years, when faster connections will make video more viable.
"You're at the dancing bear stage" now, he said. "Everyone's excited because the bear can dance, but you're not talking about whether it's a good dancer."
Despite the nascent technological stage of the consumer market, Progressive already faces competition. VXtreme (http://www. vxtreme.com), bankrolled by Softbank Corp., Cisco Systems and Informix Software, is developing video software for the Web. VDONet Corp., backed by Microsoft Corp., Nynex Corp. and U S West, is developing Net video broadcasting technology. Microsoft also has a multimedia streaming technology, NetShow.
However, Microsoft also supports Progressive: RealPlayer will be built into Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Other media and entertainment powers, including Warner Bros., ABC Online and Columbia Records, plan to use RealVideo. Progressive (http://www.realaudio. com) is just beginning to court advertisers and ad agencies.
Most analysts, hoewever, advise shying away from using real-time video for now.
"I'd suggest people not waste their money, not waste their time and avoid looking foolish doing it," said John Robb, senior analyst with Forrester Research.
MIXING THE WEB WITH TV
Meanwhile, the experiments mixing the Web with TV go on. Ford of Canada and Young & Rubicam, Toronto, are testing a way to deliver a TV commercial over the Web using technology from Digital Renaissance, a Toronto new media firm.
Although adding a Web link to a TV is more challenging, one startup, WorldGate Communications, has found a way. WorldGate's system allows a TV viewer to click from a show or commercial to a related Web site.
The system works over cable, using a set-top box and TV's vertical blanking interval. WorldGate, backed by Motorola Inc., plans to deploy the service this quarter.