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Google Factor: 33,600

The line between streaming and downloading content are blurring before our eyes, and the proliferation of broadband will blur the line as never before. Digital audio and video is perhaps the fastest growing Internet application; consumers are burning and ripping CDs, confronting multiple media formats and platforms, and extending their audio and video to numerous portable devices. And in the media player space, the clear leader, RealNetworks, is developing media player solutions for this new multi-format, multi-player, broadband-enabled Internet of tomorrow.

For starters, RealNetworks has been one of the few media companies to show that, yes, an actual profit can be turned through subscription revenue for services. In just over a year, RealNetworks has signed up more than 400,000 subscribers (at $9.95 a month) to its GoldPass premium content service, which attracts users to its media player with content from Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and outlets like National Public Radio.

But GoldPass appears to be just the tip of the broadband iceberg. Real-Networks is anxiously rolling out what it calls the RealOne Platform–a combination of an advanced player and new standards-based tools for content creators and developers to create a single, unified media delivery platform.

Central to the broadband effort is the recently previewed RealOne Player, which aims to bring all of the promising features broadband offers into one integrated media player. The new player will actually incorporate three distinct sections into one user interface: the top left-hand side will be an enhanced video player, and the right corner will be a space to display additional information about the song or clip that is playing. The bottom two-thirds of the screen is a fully-functional embedded media browser.

The marketing and cross-promotional capabilities are clear with the new player, but it represents a change of heart at RealNetworks. Until this new effort was launched, the company had stood steadfast in its delivery of stand-alone audio and video players. The trend towardsbroadband and multi-tasking is changing all of that.

Later this year, the RealOne Player and the successful GoldPass service will likely intersect. The company will be launching a file-sharing music service called RealMusic, which will include music from the major labels through the MusicNet partnership. Look for RealNetworks to likely bundle the new music service with the successful GoldPass offering at a reasonable price point.

Two important features of the new RealPlayer will enhance the RealMusic service, and allow users to truly optimize their broadband connections. The player will be the first to offer access to all of the major audio and video formats currently available–Microsoft, Real and MP3–so users won't have to worry that a file they've downloaded isn't compatible. Also, the RealPlayer features the ability to remember hyperlinks to video and audio streams ... that will mean less hard drive space used for storage of media files.

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