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Realnetworks Says it's Time to Play by the Rules
By Heather Johnson
(more articles from this author)
2001-06-27
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With the digital media market growing at a rapid pace, RealNetworks has decided that it is time to lay down the law. Last week the Internet leader launched the RealSystem Media Commerce Suite, a platform offering commerce solutions for the secure licensing and delivery of digital media.

At the same time, the Seattle-based company joined America Online, Avid Technology, Bertelsmann, British Telecom's BTopenworld, Clear Channel, EMI Recorded Music, eMotion, IBM, IFILM, InterTrust, MGM, Napster, Rightsline, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, Sun Microsystems and many others to form the eXtensible Media Commerce Language (XMCL) initiative, an open XML-based language designed to establish industry-wide standards for Internet media commerce.

The RealSystem Media Commerce Suite includes products and services for secure media packaging, license generation and high-quality content delivery to a trusted media player base across all major platforms. It empowers rights holders to create a range of robust business models for distributing rich media to the broadest worldwide audience, and will create many new ways for consumers to access and enjoy digital media. By standardizing the language for business rules, XMCL will enable content to be played in a way that is independent of codecs, digital rights management systems, and e-commerce systems. The XMCL proposal will be submitted to various standards organizations in the near future.

Industry leaders predict that the moves will intensify competition between RealNetworks and Microsoft, both of which distribute technology that allows consumers to watch videos or listen to music over the Web.

To retaliate, Microsoft issued its own set of announcements. The software giant unveiled Microsoft Producer, a system that lets people incorporate Windows Media audio and video technology into their business presentations. In addition, the company said it will begin highlighting how media and entertainment companies such as EMI Recorded Music, Viacom's CBS NewsPath and Lions Gate Entertainment are using its Windows Media digital rights management system.

With support from an array of music companies and rights holders, RealNetworks remains solid in the industry. The RealSystem Media Commerce Suite enables rights holders to distribute movies, music and other digital content to over 200 million RealPlayer users. Over 15 million copies of RealPlayer enabled with the Media Commerce Suite functionality have already been installed since March of 2001.

According to Jeff Albertson of RealNetworks media systems division, the Media Commerce Suite software was derived from their GoldPass streaming media subscription service and from rights management technology acquired from Aegisoft in January. An estimated 15 million media player applications have been distributed, which support the new security system with a plug-in.

The Media Commerce Suite extends the RealSystem and RealPlayer open architecture to accommodate the incorporation of a wide range of rights management systems. It easily integrates into all types of existing infrastructures and back-end systems, supporting a broad set of business models including purchase, rental, video on-demand, and subscription services.

These rights management systems also need a strong set of guidelines to follow. To create interoperable digital commerce, including cross-system rights management, rights holders and retailers need a set of standard business rules to define the parameters of media usage—for example, establishing that a piece of content be viewed a certain number of times per payment.

The XMCL Initiative proposes a standard business rule definition language, providing rights holders the ability to take existing media business models – such as purchase, rental, video-on-demand, and subscription services – and deploy them on the Internet to generate new commerce opportunities. XMCL will give rights holders the freedom to use multiple back-end systems that interoperate with rights management solutions under a common interchange language.

"The digital media market is growing fast, with incredible breakthroughs in both technology and the quality of content that is being made available. Now is the time to unleash the true commercial potential of the medium by establishing standard business rules for secure digital distribution," Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO, RealNetworks, Inc. said. "With the XMCL Initiative, RealNetworks and its partners are stepping up today to help define the standards that will drive this exciting market."

Barry Schuler, Chairman and CEO of America Online, is looking forward to having these new standards in place. "RealNetworks is a long-time leader in Internet media delivery, and we believe this new XMCL Initiative will make it easier to deliver a broader range of digital content to consumers in more flexible ways," he said. "We think this new initiative will ultimately be a win for interactive consumers, who are more and more looking to the Internet for their music, and enable all parts of the industry to take the delivery of digital media to the next level."

Supporters of the Media Commerce Suite are pleased with the advantages it brings to music sites and fans. "The protection of EMI's music content demands a trusted and secure delivery solution that is as flexible as it is reliable," Jay Samit, Senior Vice President of EMI Recorded Music said. "RealNetworks' new Media Commerce Suite will ensure that MusicNet offers the security EMI artists need, while letting fans enjoy their favorite music in whole new ways."

Competitors, however, state that the software won’t have as big of an impact as we think. According to a recent article published in Webnoise, rivals Liquid Audio stated that RealNetworks might not have any truly new technology. "From Liquid's perspective and other retailers who are our partners -- Tower, Amazon, Best Buy -- [Real's announcement] probably doesn't mean anything," Matt Smith, Liquid Audio's vice president of product marketing said in the piece.

Liquid Audio and other competing companies are considering RealNetworks’ proposals, but it remains to be seen whether the rivals will join forces.

Linkography

Aegisoft - www.aegisoft.com
AOL - www.aoltimewarner.com
EMI - www.emigroup.com
Liquid Audio - www.liquidaudio.com
Microsoft - www.microsoft.com
RealNetworks - www.realnetworks.com

Related MusicDish e-Journal Articles:
» Sony and Nokia Find a 'Real' Deal (2001-05-21)


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