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New Company Demonstrates Live Video to Ordinary PCs through Internet

March 26, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ And now, TV on the Internet.

A new Silicon Valley company on Tuesday demonstrated it can send moving video images in so-called ``real-time″ to personal computers through ordinary phone lines.

The technique by VXtreme Inc. lets a person see video images as they come into a computer, just like a person sees images the moment they appear on a TV.

Video information is now sent to a computer in a package that can’t be viewed until fully delivered. Once it is in a PC, it may be played like a videotape. But the delivery, or downloading, process typically takes much longer than the viewing time.

VXtreme demonstrated its technology during a press conference by Sun Microsystems Inc. at an Internet trade show. The product works with the World Wide Web or internal corporate networks that have the same design standards as the Web.

Sun separately announced several new products, including new server computers and software development tools, to help companies adapt their data systems and practices to the Web. VXtreme’s software was partly created with Sun’s Java programming language.

VXtreme’s software can produce a video output of 30 frames per second, the speed typical for movies and TV programs, when the data is sent into a computer at 70,000 bits per second. At that bit speed, extra text and graphical data was also sent in to change the Web page.

But most new computers have modems that operate at 28,800 bits per second. At that slower speed, the VXtreme process produces video at 10 to 15 frames per second, resulting in a less fluid motion. That is more pronounced at 14,400 bits per second, the modem speed that was common in new PCs a year ago. But more development work will improve the data at those modem speeds.

``The problem to solve was delivering multimedia functions over today’s infrastructure,″ said Diane Greene, chief executive officer of VXtreme.

Being able to work with advanced data, such as video, on ordinary phone lines is particularly important in rural and low-income areas where phone companies are least likely to install new lines that can carry more data signals simultaneously.

Though widespread usage is some time off, the breakthrough is likely to stir development activities in many companies. A first practical application of the technology is video conferencing within companies.

At the Internet trade show, Sun chief executive Scott McNealy said improvements to data-carrying capacity, or bandwidth, of networks appear to be moving slowly but will occur faster than most technology users think.

``We obviously need to make the networks bigger but we can also make them more efficient and that is happening,″ McNealy said.

VXtreme’s breakthrough caps a tumultuous year in which other new companies have created techniques to send audio signals and hold telephone conversations over what the Internet, which for more than 25 years merely exchanged text-oriented computer data.

The privately-held company was started by Greene, a former manager of database, video and multimedia products at Silicon Graphics Inc., and several other engineers who have been working for more than a year on the idea at Stanford University.

Their fundamental advance is in a method of compressing and decompressing the amount of data bits it takes to represent video information. VXtreme compresses the data so there’s less to be transferred through a small-capacity line, like a telephone line. It decompresses it at the other end.

VXtreme’s process occurs in software, meaning computers do not need to be modified with extra chips to make it work.

The company will make a test version of its software available on the Internet in a few weeks, Greene said. VXtreme is also working with several major firms, such as Sun, to incorporate the technology in future products.

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