AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- A new company will give broadcasters a first glimpse Monday at a way to listen to things through the Internet without using a cumbersome and disliked technical process.
The breakthrough will allow audio-on-demand services on the global computer network, an appealing advance for consumers, broadcasters and other sound-oriented companies.
For instance, a local radio station could make its newscasts or sports play-by-plays accessible to someone living in another state anytime that person wants. The ABC and National Public Radio networks plan to make their newscasts available on the Internet using the technology.
The product, dubbed RealAudio, was developed by Progressive Networks, a year-old Seattle software company, and will be formally introduced at the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas Monday.
When it becomes available this summer, RealAudio will let people who use the Internet hear sounds without going through a process called downloading, in which data must fully transfer into a computer before it can be heard.
A five-minute newscast can typically take 25 minutes to download. But with RealAudio it plays as it comes through the telephone wire into the computer.
In addition, RealAudio can give a person control over what's being heard, similar to running a tape recorder. For example, someone could ``rewind'' a news program to listen again to what a politician said or ``fast forward'' to the spot in a football game when the winning touchdown is scored.
RealAudio is basically two pieces of software, one used at the transmission side of an audio program and one at the listening side.
Progressive Networks is giving away the listening side software, which may be used on Windows-based PCs, Macintoshes and Unix-run computers. It is also making deals with companies that make programs for browsing the World Wide Web portion of the Internet to include the listening software in their products.
The company will sell the transmission side program and other specialized software to companies that wish to present audio through the Internet.
The same business strategy is being used by Adobe Systems Inc. to promote its Acrobat software for sharing documents, such as brochures or books, that look the same on the Internet as they do on paper.
In addition to that strategy, Progressive Networks chief executive Rob Glaser said the company will operate a centralized spot on the World Wide Web for sound-oriented companies, including the radio networks, to present their material. In time, however, Glaser said most audio providers will operate their own services.
``By having major media partners, it creates a greater sense of the impact of the technology,'' said Glaser, who left a top development job at Microsoft Corp. to start Progressive Networks. ``We believe we're on to something transcendent.''
ABC plans to let people access its hourly radio newscasts through the Internet. NPR will make available its popular ``Morning Edition'' and ``All Things Considered'' programs.
On-Ramp Inc., an entertainment news and music marketing service led by former MTV announcer Adam Curry, will use RealAudio to distribute its programs starting Monday.
Curry said the sound quality is not as good as a compact disc but represents a good start. ``It's kind of like AM radio and a lot of people still listen to AM radio,'' he said.
The software runs best with a computer that has a modem connection speed of 14,400 bits per second. During a demonstration in New York Friday, Glaser showed that a computer powered by a fast 486, Pentium or PowerPC chip can run both the audio signal and another program, such as a word processor or spreadsheet, at the same time.
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