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Forget Streaming Media, Get Ready for Streaming Software

First there was streaming audio, then streaming video. Now get ready for streaming software. A new company called StreamTheory says they’ve developed a "Streaming Software Service" that streams applications from its servers to user’s desktops. The cool thing is that the program installs while the program is downloading, which means you get the software faster and without the hassles of separate downloads. It's just click and run. The bad thing is that you need a broadband connection to really get the benefits.

The idea is the brainchild of Steig Westerberg, founder, president & CEO of StreamTheory ( http://www.streamtheory.com). "Sixty percent of people who download, don’t finish and use the software," he says. They either can’t find, or simply forget to use it. "If sixty percent are walking away, that’s a lot of lost revenue." Westerberg, naturally, aims to help companies reach those dissatisfied users.

Here’s how it works: Users must download and install (ironically) the StreamTheory software before getting started. Then they go to a partner web site to find a program to stream to their desktop. From there, there’s a (relatively) short download time and the program installs and begins to run automatically. The software installs but doesn’t reside on a user’s computer, so there’s no lingering "dust" from installed and uninstalled applications. And if you try to run the program again later, the start-up time is faster since it pulls data from an encrypted local cache.

If you’re thinking "This is an ASP model", you’re right. But Westerberg says they don’t want to be an ASP (application service provider) themselves but want to go to other ASP’s and deliver this solution for them. "It’s a perfect target for us," he says. "We want to enable everybody else to do it."

Currently, StreamTheory has deals with various game publishers (like Eidos and Ripcord) but are actively talking to other companies as well for more business-related software. "The business-to-business market is the real focus," stresses Westerberg. StreamTheory is doing games now because it was a prime way to showcase the functionality and because games "really push the envelope for this technology". Getting StreamTheory to work with business applications will be child’s play, he says.

Aside from the benefits to the end-user, publishers and web site owners gain something too. StreamTheory has extensive reporting so it knows who’s using what software, how long, the features being used and other information. "Publishers love this," says Westerberg," because they know titles are being used." With downloading, he points out, publishers can never know how many users actually install and use their software.

StreamTheory is still in pre-launch mode and conducting trials for their full rollout sometime this summer. The goal of the company is to enable customers to increase stickiness and drive sales. That’s because they plan on making money by taking a percentage of sales.

Does this mean the end of packaged software? "There will always be packaged software," Westerberg says. He says StreamTheory lowers distribution costs (shipping, manufacturing, packaging, marketing, returns) and helps the bottom line.

But what about handling streaming audio and video? Will the company focus on that in the future? "That’s not what we do," says Westerberg. "It’s designed to deliver software. We’re just moving bits--we don’t care if its Nerf Arena Blast or Microsoft Office."

The possibilities for streaming software are numerous. Imagine sitting in a café and renting Quake III for an hour. Or sitting at a client’s site and using your copy of Quicken for a quick check of your finances. This also opens up some useful telecommuting applications where home users can have true "anywhere computing".

It seems streaming is not just for audio and video anymore.

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