Sun to Heat Up SoftCom Interactive Video Technology

Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) and SoftCom, Inc. announced a joint marketing agreement yesterday that will aim to make streaming video a source of revenue on the Internet and on TV.

The companies agreed to market SoftCom’s patent-pending interactive video technology to owners of video footage and to technology companies who use Sun’s Java language. The goal is to persuade content providers to take advantage of the earning potential of their video assets through electronic commerce and value-adding elements.

Additionally, Sun and SoftCom agreed to work together to develop a Java tool to transmit interactive video from a TV set-top box to a desktop computer, opening video distribution to cable, satellite and broadcast TV streams as well as the Internet’s telephone connection. Eventually, the companies envision that PCs, TVs and handheld devices will all carry interactive streaming video.

Shopping or Entertainment?

With SoftCom’s video technology and Sun’s dynamic Java programming language, the two companies are hoping that interactive video will transform passive viewers into active participants who will access additional information, chat with other viewers or the video owner and, ultimately, buy goods related to what they see in the video.

The tasks of entertainment and shopping have already been merged on the Internet by the addition of content to shopping sites and vice-versa. While Internet commerce continues its strong growth, many observers believe that streaming video is a missing ingredient.

With video, clothing retailers and fashion designers would be able to team up to create a “user-controlled” shopping experience. Online shoppers would watch a video fashion show for entertainment and would be able to click on an article of clothing to make a purchase. If a music video is compelling enough, viewers would be able shift into buy mode by clicking on a button that would let them purchase concert tickets, merchandise, collectibles, a CD or a direct download of the artist’s music.

The sports arena is another likely target, as viewing and reading about sports consumes a major amount of leisure time in the United States. More importantly, sports fans often comprise one of the most appealing demographics for marketers. According to the companies, the Sun/SoftCom technology gives marketers “the opportunity to create a rich, interactive environment where, with a single click, fans can purchase tickets and merchandise and strengthen their affinity for players and teams.”

Ready for Use

SoftCom’s technology is designed to work with streamed video using standard media players now used by many Internet browsers. It is also compatible with existing video libraries. The companies said that they also plan to target enterprise-scale Internet, entertainment and media customers.

With more than $11.5 billion in annual revenues, Sun is among the top companies providing hardware, software and services for establishing enterprise-wide networks and expanding the power of the Internet for e-commerce and other purposes.

SoftCom was founded in 1994 by a team of veterans from Bell Labs and other companies.

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