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RealNetworks Launches Digital Media Suite

Streaming media got a bit more interesting today as RealNetworks (http://www.realnetworks.com) unveiled the "Real Entertainment Center", a combined suite of three software products — RealPlayer, RealJukebox, and RealDownload - in one application.

Could it be that RealNetworks is taking a page from Microsoft's (recently unveiled) all-in-one Windows Media Player 7? Could it be that Microsoft actually beat RealNetworks to the punch? Just call it another round in the championship fight pitting RealNetworks vs. Microsoft.

Real Entertainment Center is clearly a play at the widening consumer market, that both Real and Microsoft see as the next wave of users. The integration simply makes for a more easier-to-use application with no distinction between download and streaming. The media experience is a unified one.

Real Entertainment Center offers support for streaming audio and video, downloadable music like MP3, a jukebox, a CD player, a radio tuner, a download management program, a built-in guide to Internet content and support for CD recording. It also has support for an alert service which notifies users of breaking news or programs that are available for viewing.

With the exception of support for CD recording, the new Windows Media player includes most of the functions in the Real Entertainment Center.

"With the introduction of the Real Entertainment Center, we are providing consumers with the greatest degree of choice, content and flexibility in Internet digital media delivery and management," said Tom Frank, COO of RealNetworks, Inc.

Another noticeable addition in the REC is support for the Windows Media Audio codec, which RealNetworks carefully says is good for download only, not streaming. Back in April, Microsoft announced that RealNetworks had licensed to use Windows Media Audio in its player. This touched off a storm of controversy as both sides claimed victory--Microsoft crowed about its widespread Window Media codec support (especially in RealJukebox), and RealNetworks said it had the leading music player with support for 10 digital media formats.

The other big addition is the integration of a download capability, RealDownload. It lets users pause and re-connect downloads in progress and overall manage downloads—good for downloading digital music files naturally.

The REC (let's call it) is available free for download right now.

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