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In this paper, we examine two architectural alternatives-native OS support versus middleware-for supporting multimedia applications. Specifically, we examine whether extensions to OS functionality are necessary for supporting multimedia applications, or whether much of these benefits can be accrued by implementing resource management mechanisms in a middleware system. To answer these questions, we use QLinux and TAO as representative examples of a multimedia operating system and a multimedia middleware, respectively, and examine their effectiveness in supporting distributed applications. Our results show that although the run-time overheads of a middleware can impact application performance, middleware resource management mechanisms can, nevertheless, be as effective as native OS mechanisms for many applications. We also find OS kernel-based mechanisms to be more effective then middleware systems at providing application isolation and at preventing applications from interfering with one another.