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ISMA Alliance Moves Forward

The Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA) held its first quarterly meeting last Thursday in Silicon Valley. One major announcement that came from the meeting was IBM officially joining the alliance as a co-founder.

According to Tom Jacobs, president of the ISMA and director of engineering, Digital Media Services at Sun Microsystems, the group expects to have its initial implementation agreement completed by the second quarter of this year.

Jacobs believes that by Q4, the industry will begin to see the emergence of new products created by member companies for serving streaming media to the PC, Internet appliances and any other type of Internet-enabled device. ISMA hopes that a single standard will enable an "author once, play anywhere" model for content distribution.

It was also decided at the meeting that formal liaisons would be set up between the ISMA and other organizations working in similar spaces, such as the MPEG Committee, M4IF and WMF. Jacobs cites cooperation with the M4IF as particularly important, because the organization deals with the intellectual property rights surrounding MPEG-4, and the member companies prefer not to release products until those issues are completely resolved.

Jacobs states that the target market the group will eventually be focusing on is streaming service providers. "Streaming service providers have only a few choices for the infrastructure. Whereas for Web hosting, there are numerous vendors," adds Jacobs.

Jacobs foresees more players entering the field in an "open" streaming market and fostering a healthy sense of competition. The field is currently dominated by Microsoft and Real, which are not members of the alliance. But Apple, IBM, Sun, Cisco and other members of the ISMA are looking to grab more market share as the streaming arena expands beyond the PC and into set-top boxes, web-enabled and wireless devices.

"Most of the companies that are in the alliance are for profit. It is a motivation for companies to provide a better solution," states Jacobs. He also added that member companies comprise the entire spectrum of streaming companies from video editing through to client-level solutions, so that upon definition there should be an "end-to-end" solution based on the ISMA specification.

The ISMA was introduced at Streaming Media West in December of 2000 to accelerate the market adoption of open standards and interoperability for streaming rich media over Internet Protocols (IP).

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