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RealNetworks Unveils RealONE Platform

On Monday, RealNetworks (www.realnetworks.com) unveiled RealONE, a new integrated player that combines RealPlayer, RealJukebox and its subscription service. RealNetworks also renamed its subscription service from GoldPass to RealONE Service.

The RealONE player comes with an integrated browser so users can surf Web sites while playing files. Dave Richards, VP of RealNetworks' Consumer Systems, called RealONE more of a platform than just a new player. He said RealNetworks wants to get content providers to build channels and video behind RealONE, and help to build subscription, pay-per-view and other business models. Richards compared RealNetworks' strategy with that of a cable provider, which offers free and premium channels to partners.

"RealONE Platform will empower our partners to create a new generation of digital media businesses," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO, RealNetworks, Inc. "By combining the many ways that people enjoy and interact with digital media, and by steering use of the Internet toward integrated, compelling audio-visual content, RealONE Platform will fundamentally change how consumers and creators of content will relate."

But chief rival Microsoft didn’t seem impressed at Monday’s news. Michael Aldridge, lead product manager of Microsoft’s digital media division said that Real’s new player was "more marketing than technology." He said Microsoft’s Windows Media Player 7 has had combined streaming and jukebox functionality for almost two years. "It illustrates that our strategy two years ago was a correct one for the consumer," he said. "The all in one [player] is what consumers prefer."

Three Pane or Three Pain?

The new three-paned interface resembles the view popularized with Yahoo!’s FinanceVision service, showing a video window, a smaller synchronized window and a browser at the bottom. RealNetworks calls this view "play, more and explore," trying to show that users can browse, get more information and interact with the media.

But it’s not clear whether many content providers will move to the new three-pane format, since it requires special HTML programming. Existing content viewed with the beta version of the RealONE player, for example, doesn’t provide any contextual synchronized information. Interestingly, Richards said that RealNetworks wouldn’t develop new authoring software to take advantage of the three-pane look, since any HTML editor can be used. But RealNetworks announced that more than 150 partners (including Adobe, Anystream, Sonic Foundry, Virage, Oratrix,) have endorsed its new RealONE Platform, to create authoring tools and services.

One company, sofTV.net (www.softv.net), unveiled its sofTV.Presenter for Real software, which helps create video presentations, and synchronized videos with PowerPoint. "We’re first to market in supporting RealNetworks customers with software that makes it easy for corporations to build rich media presentations that exploit the features of SMIL and of the new RealONE technology," said Dale Gantous, CEO of sofTV.net.

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