Microsoft says that support for its next-generation Windows Media platform (code-named Corona) has extended well beyond online content creators and streaming-media functionality, thanks to the platform's stunning quality and low-bandwidth requirements. The company is attending this week's National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2002 trade show, touting third-party initiatives to encourage adoption of the Corona technologies in high-end audio and video solutions.

"Corona is no longer just for Internet streaming," Jonathan Usher, group product manager of Microsoft's Windows Digital Media Division told me this weekend. "It's rapidly moving upstream in the production process." Usher said that even at this early stage in Corona's development, audio and video hardware and software are using the technology in exciting ways. "Corona isn't even at beta yet," Usher noted. "It's remarkable support at this stage."

Microsoft is highlighting several companies, including Accom, Adobe Systems, Discreet, Thomson Multimedia's Grass Valley Group, and Winnov, that are working to bring Corona technologies to video professionals. Adobe is adding native Corona support to its next-generation Premiere and After Effects products, which are due later this year. In addition, several companies, including Creative Labs, Echo Audio, M- Audio/Midiman, Steinberg Media Technologies, and Syntrillium Software, are adding Corona support to their products for audio professionals.

Microsoft first previewed Corona last December at Streaming Media East 2001, and the company says that the technology's six-channel surround-sound capabilities are a first for any digital-media codec. The software also sports a 20 percent streaming-efficiency improvement over the previous-generation Windows Media technology and can provide high-definition, DVD-quality video playback at file sizes half that of today's DVDs, the company says. Various Corona components--including the next-generation Windows Media Player (WMP)--will enter beta this summer, according to Usher.