RealNetworks has, for now, failed to gain a permanent injunction against Streambox, whose Ripper software converts RealNetworks' proprietary RealAudio format into MP3 files. The temporary set-back followed hot on the heels of a mixed week for RealNetworks. On the positive side, it signed deals technology and digital music distribution deals with Sony and Universal, respectively. The downside was the news that RealNetworks' near-total domination of the streaming media market is now down to little over 50 per cent thanks to Apple's QuickTime and Microsoft's Windows Media Technologies (WMT). In its case against Streambox, RealNetworks has already had some success. Recently it was granted a temporary injunction blocking the distribution of Ripper, which, it claims, violates RealNetworks intellectual property and is harmful to its business. The company also claims Ripper infringes US copyright protection law. It makes the same charges against StreamboxVCR, which converts streamed RealAudio data into MP3 files for playback at a later date. This time, however, US District Judge Marsha J. Pechman said she required more time to consider the merits of the case, and could therefore only extend RealNetworks' temporary injunction further. Which she did. An official ruling will be made on 17 January, five days after both Streambox and RealNetworks file their findings of fact and findings of law. If the case goes against RealNetworks, it will be a bitter pill to take. Maintaining tight control of its format has always been key to the company's streaming business, since it ensures it's the only company that can supply player and encoding software. Its rivals have used that fact in their efforts to promote their own alternatives -- Apple, for one, saying its QuickTime server software is free of charge (and open source) and thus free of what it calls RealNetworks' "server tax". It was Apple CEO Steve Jobs who this week pointed out that, according to Nielsen NetRatings for November 1999, put RealNetworks' share of the streaming media market at just 53 per cent, well down from the upper 80s it had this time last year. QuickTime had 33 per cent, WMT just 14 per cent. Jobs also noted, during his keynote at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, that of under-21 year-olds, QuickTime had a 30 per cent share, compared to WMT's 25 per cent and leaving RealNetworks at the bottom with 23 per cent. Of course, while that shows QuickTime in the lead, it also shows how close together the key players are, suggesting that none are likely to dominate the market. Instead, they will simply jostle for a few percentage points' lead. Still, if RealNetworks loses its control of the streaming media business, it nevertheless appears to be making ground in the digital music world. The deal with Sony allows RealNetworks to incorporate Sony's ATRAC3 music compression format, Sony's would-be digital music standard, into RealJukebox, RealNetwork's would-be digital music player standard. RealJukebox will also support Sony's OpenMG copy protection technology. Meanwhile, RealJukebox has become the preferred download and playback system for 'big five' recording company Universal's online digital music distribution network. Again, this involves building support for Universal's own copy protection system. RealNetworks wants RealJukebox to become the universal player for the digital music world, and the partnerships with Sony and Universal, along with its support for its own format, MP3 and others takes the software a couple of steps closer to achieving that goal. ®
The results of Apple's co-development partnership with Palm Computing look set to emerge in the very near future, now that early samples of an Apple-branded PalmOS-based device have already started coming off Taiwanese production lines. Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself confirmed the two companies' close ties this week, during his keynote at Macworld Expo, held in San Francisco. Introducing Palm CEO Carl Yankowski, Jobs told the audience Apple had been "doing a lot of work with these guys lately". Such co-operation has long been suspected, ever since Jobs admitted late 1998 that he had attempted by buy Palm from its parent, 3Com (as, apparently, did Bill Gates). However, Apple has never given official confirmation of the partnership, or given any hint as to its direction. Meanwhile, Taiwanese sources close to a leading OEM -- though none will say who this leader is -- claim contacts within the company have seen early Apple-branded Palm-style devices in limited production. Details of the device other than its existence are scant to say the least, but it does suggest Apple is getting much closer to announcing a PDA of its own. Its last attempt was the ill-fated Newton MessagePad, the first true PDA, but alas released long before the technology was ready for the mainstream. Jobs himself canned the Newton project back in 1998. At this stage, the comments from Taiwan are a tad too vague to be certain, but they do suggest that Apple's Palm plans are moving forward, confirmed by Jobs' remarks. ® See also Palm dismisses WAP out of hand Apple consumed by consumers Palm colour-screen IIIc to ship February
US President Bill Clinton yesterday vowed to seek US $91 million from Congress to develop new tricks and tips to identify and defeat cyberterrorists bent on bringing civilisation to its knees. Clinton said that "there has never been a time like this, in which we have the power to create knowledge and the power to create havoc, and both those powers rest in the same hands." Pointing out that US "critical systems, from power structures to air traffic control, are connected and run by computers," the president urged all good Americans to "make those systems more secure so that America can be more secure." Clinton's new $91 million cyberterror initiative is part of a larger, $2 billion package for improving the security of America's information infrastructure. The Clinton Administration has lately been much worried about information warfare and terrorism, as the country's current and quite phenomenal economic boom is widely attributed, whether rightly or not, to its increasing exploitation of information technology. Clinton's proposal also includes a programme of university scholarships for students involved in computer security, provided they agree to perform some manner of public service after graduation. "This programme will create a new generation of computer security specialists who will work to defend our nation's computers," the President chirped. Last July, the administration announced controversial plans to create a security network called FIDNET to protect government networks against cyber-terrorists and malicious hackers, to be administered by the US General Accounting Office (GAO). The GAO has reported that it believes government and commercial networks to be at high risk for a crippling attack, and concluded that the federal government is doing too little to prevent it. But now that Y2K has come and gone without a fraction of the mayhem predicted by the US government, the GAO is starting to sound a bit like Chicken Little. No matter, the Yanks can easily afford to be over-cautious. And perhaps with an economy so dependent on IT as theirs, they can't afford not to be. ®
The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) reports no unusual cyberterror activity under cover of the Y2K rollover, despite months of sensational warnings and apocalyptic predictions involving doomsday religious cults, white supremacists, conspiracy paranoiacs and hostile foreign powers. The level of physical threats and computer intrusions recorded from 31 December to 5 January "was not beyond the norm you would usually see in that number of days," NIPC's Michael Vatis conceded. Vatis has testified before Congress on the numerous opportunities for extra computer mayhem provided by the Millennium Bug. In November the FBI published a study called "Project Megiddo" warning of numerous Millennium-related threats by religious cults. The Bureau warned that Millennium Bug havoc could nourish existing fears among the unbalanced. "Megiddo" refers to a hill in Israel associated with the Apocalypse. During her weekly press availability, US Attorney General Janet Reno dodged the question of why, if the FBI was so concerned, the rollover actually yielded so little in the way of anarchy. "The nice answer would be that there was no threat. What we must all do, I think, is...take reasonable precautions...when we have specific information that can inform the American people, that we advise them," she warbled. The NIPC did release a tool for discovering whether or not a Solaris 2.5.1, 2.6 or Solaris 7 system is infected with any sort of distributed denial of service tool such as TRIN00 or Tribe Flood Network (or TFN & tnf2k), which has uncovered a smattering of intrusions now being investigated by the FBI. The download is available from NIPC's Web site.