Collusion? Apple ties QuickTime to RealPlayer

In an interesting bit of complicity between two of the top three players in the Internet streaming media market, Apple Computer and RealNetworks announced this week that RealNetworks has licensed Apple's QuickTime media format, effectively shutting out Microsoft's Windows Media Player from this lucrative format. "The number one and \[number three\] players are starting to collaborate," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "We want QuickTime everywhere, and the more servers that it runs on, the better." Part of the deal has RealNetworks adding QuickTime delivery capabilities to its RealServer products.

RealNetworks and Apple also pledged to support the "Ask, Tell, Help" initiative, which promotes "good Internet manners" by ensuring that each company's media player will ask the user before switching the default player selection for different media types.

The move is seen as an attempt to shut out Microsoft, whose own Windows Media Player has been chewing up marketshare and closing in on RealPlayer for the number one spot. RealNetworks licensed Microsoft's Windows Media Audio format in March so that RealPlayer users could listen to WMA files without needing to use a separate application. But the introduction of Microsoft's latest streaming media client, Windows Media Player 7, raised the stakes dramatically, offering users an all-in-one player with far-reaching capabilities. And the Microsoft player is absolutely free and will ship in the box with Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) this summer. Microsoft's Windows Media server product is also free for Windows 2000 Server users; both Apple and RealNetworks charge for their full-featured players and RealNetworks charges heady prices for its streaming server

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