RealNetworks Rolls Out Novel Media Player, Moves Deeper into Mobile and Social Space

6/24/09Follow @gthuang

Seattle-based RealNetworks (NASDAQ: RNWK) announced today the first new version of its RealPlayer media software since May 2007. This beta version of RealPlayer SP lets you download video in any format and quickly put it on your mobile phone or portable media player—whether you have an iPhone, iPod, BlackBerry Storm, Palm Pre, or any of the latest devices. It also lets you share videos with friends on social websites like Facebook and Twitter. Both of these are new capabilities for Real. The software is now available for free download.

It’s a major release, and a big deal for the company. When most people think of RealNetworks, they think of media delivery software, multimedia formats, music, and gaming services (and also its recent dispute with Hollywood studios over digital rights management with its RealDVD product)—not necessarily mobile devices and social networks.

That could be changing. Although its push into mobile and social media is not new, today’s product launch seems to fit within Real’s strategic belief that mobile is increasingly central to how people enjoy digital entertainment. (The division that houses Real’s mobile business, Technology Products & Solutions, accounts for 34 percent of the company’s revenues, and that percentage has been growing.) The launch is also central to turning around Real’s media software and services business, which has been flat or declining in recent years.

The field of online video formatting and converting is crowded, of course. But what seems to separate Real’s software from the competition, at least initially, is how fast and easy it is to use. With just a couple of clicks, you can grab videos from YouTube, say, and put them on your phone automatically without worrying about what format they’re in and whether it matches your device’s settings. “This is a product for everyone,” says John Schussler, senior program manager at RealNetworks. “We make the experience really, really simple.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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