RealNetworks launches new system

Monday, September 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SEATTLE (AP) _ RealNetworks is set to unveil RealONE, a music and video player designed to replace the company's three flagship consumer products, RealPlayer, RealJukebox and GoldPass.

The all-in-one system marks one of the company's most pronounced steps away from just providing the tools to hear music and see videos online, to the broader and potentially more lucrative goal of also selling the content.

``We are very much in the media subscription business now,'' said Peter Card, product manager for Real's consumer group.

RealONE is to be unveiled to industry experts at the company's annual RealConference, opening Monday in Seattle. It will have its consumer debut in about 60 days, Card said.

The fully redesigned system boasts a cleaner, more consumer-friendly look that is in keeping with the industry trend echoed by Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Media Player and Apple's Quick Time.

As with the souped-up Windows Media Player to be included in Microsoft's forthcoming Windows XP, RealONE is more than just a pretty, branded face: It is a rounded system aimed at keeping the user inside Real's universe.

The music and video player, which replaces the company's flagship RealPlayer, includes a system for easily storing and cataloguing downloaded songs and movies, or even burning CDs. That's the job RealJukebox used to do.

The player itself is also an expanded experience. While one screen plays a video or music piece, a side screen provides additional information about that song, movie or advertisement _ something the company believes will be a boon for marketers looking to sell related products.

In addition, a separate Web screen allows the user to search for other music and videos online without leaving the domain of the RealONE player.

RealNetworks plans to heavily market the system as a natural introduction to its paid subscription materials, previously called Gold Pass.

The premium service, which costs $19.95 plus $9.95 a month, gives users access to such content as major league sports and popular music. It currently has some 300,000 users.

RealONE also is the platform for MusicNet, a planned online music subscription company whose founders include RealNetworks, AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI. Pricing for that system has not been announced, although Card said he expects the cost to be less than $10 a month.

MusicNet's chief rival is pressplay, a New York City-based collaboration between Sony and Universal Music Group that will support Windows Media Player and partner with Microsoft's music Web site, MSN Music.