• United States

Real hits 10

Jan 07, 20043 mins
Data Center

RealNetworks is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a bang. Today the company announced a new music store (as expected), a new RealPlayer 10, and new audio and video codecs (RealAudio 10 and RealVideo 10). To accompany the new codecs, there’s also RealProducer 10 for encoding content into the new format. (Note Real’s gone back to its roots, renaming Helix Producer to its original name.)

The free version of the player comes with a number of new goodies such as the ability to playback any format (including Windows Media and QuickTime) and any music from any download store (including iTunes). Users have to have QuickTime, iTunes and Windows Media Player installed on their system in order to be able to take advantage of this functionality. If they do, RealPlayer 10 gives them a single interface for accessing virtually all of their music. (In the case of iTunes, RealPlayer initiates Apple’s DRM authorization technology in the background, it does not break it any way.) RealPlayer 10 is available for Windows 98 and greater. The Helix Community is working on a Linux version of the player. The Macintosh version of RealOne player will play RealVideo 10 content now and RealAudio 10 content by February. There’s no time table for a RealPlayer 10 for Mac.

On the codec side, the new version 10 codecs are said to offer much more efficiency than previous releases. RealVideo 10 is said to be 30% more efficient than RealVideo 9. One nice thing is content encoded in RealVideo 10 can be played back in RealOne player without any additional updates. On the audio side, RealAudio 10 now includes the AAC format (same one used by Apple) for ripping CDs and music. There’s also a lossless compression algorithm for the true audiophiles.

As for the store, customers can access it directly from the RealPlayer 10 interface. Songs are encoded in the AAC format and protected with Helix DRM technology (meaning though the format is the same used by iPods, you can’t play songs download from Real on an iPod.) Pricing is $.99 per song, with a special $.10 promotion for US consumers downloading their first song from the service over the next 10 days.

RealNetworks is continuing to support is Rhapsody subscription service, giving consumers to the option of having a jukebox in the sky or buy-and-download songs of their choice. A Rhapsody subscription is not needed for to download songs from the Music Store.

Overall, this is a pretty bold move for Real, which hasn’t released a new player in two years. This is where I want to see Real compete, not in the court room. If they player is truly easy to use and can be a one-stop-shopping spot for all your music, it could help boost Real in the battle with Microsoft.