The $995 Media Server supports the playback of live audio feeds using IP Multicast or on-demand access to pre-recorded audio clips. The server supports WAV, AU, and LiveAudio audio formats, all of which can be streamed from the Media Server without the need for content modifications. The Server uses several streaming codecs (including Voxware’s RT-24 and RT-29) for low bit-rate encoding of audio. Media Server users can also download the free Media Proxy Server which works in conjunction with the Netscape Media Server to allow audio content to pass through your company’s firewall and to cache content for better server performance and more efficient content distribution. The only downside is that Windows 95/NT users are currently out of luck — the Proxy Server is only available for Unix platforms (IBM AIX, SGI IRIX, HP-UX, and Digital Unix).
Potential applications for the Media Server include Web-based training for employees, live audio briefings for customers or for media presentations, and enhanced communications for your corporate Web site or intranet. Audio content released by the Media Server is available to any computer running the freeware Media Player, and since the player is integrated with Netscape Navigator and Communicator, any computer with a Netscape Web browser can play streamed audio content from Media Server. Another benefit to using Media Server is that it can be administered remotely using Netscape Communicator or a similar Web browser. The server also provides performance and traffic statistics for your Web site’s audio content.
Despite its solid capabilities as a streaming audio solution, the Media Server and Player combination does have several drawbacks. Netscape Media lacks conferencing and real-time collaborative capabilities, meaning you’ll need to download a tool like Netscape Conference or a server like Netscape Collabra Server if you want to offer this technology to your users. Real-time video is absent as well; clients like RealPlayer and NetShow are needed for serving and playing both audio and video streaming content. Finally, the audio quality in Media Player pales in comparison to more established technologies like those of RealPlayer (and especially RealPlayer Plus) and AudioActive. One explanation for this is that Netscape’s focus is the enterprise customer, while RealNetwork’s (the developer of RealPlayer) is the Internet broadcast customer.
Pros: Streams high-quality audio content, cross-platform multimedia solution, Web synchronization
Cons: Expensive, lacks real-time video and conferencing, audio quality rivaled by the competition
Version Reviewed: See below
Operating Systems / Latest Versions:
Windows NT – Intel, Alpha. Windows 95. UNIX – HP-UX, IBM AIX, Digital Unix, SGI IRIX, Solaris (all v1.01)
Player: Windows NT – Intel, Alpha. Windows 95. Macintosh – Power Mac. UNIX – HP-UX, Digital Unix, SGI IRIX, Solaris (all v1.1)