RealNetworks makes mobile licensing flexible

RealNetworks will make its mobile multimedia licensing more flexible by offering individual components.

RealNetworks has changed its mobile licensing model to provide more flexibility to handset manufacturers and allow software components like RealAudio and RealVideo to be licensed separately, it announced Wednesday.

Additionally, the Seattle software company has expanded its long-standing deal with Nokia, whereby the Finnish handset manufacturer will build support for RealNetworks' media formats into a variety of its new devices.

Previously, RealNetworks had sold its audio and video software to manufacturers as one package, but RealNetworks is now offering licenses for individual components. Customers can pick and choose a variety of options from RealNetworks' media player engine, its proprietary audio and video format support, or its total user interface.

"We want to be more flexible. It's not so much a change in mobile strategy for Real as it is an adjustment to be attuned to changes within the industry," said Sharon Goldstein, director of mobile products and services at RealNetworks.

RealNetworks will charge US$0.25 per device for any combination of components, up to US$1 million annually per device manufacturer, Goldstein said.

RealNetworks offers RealOne Mobile Player for playing content on handheld devices, and also offers mobile operators and other service providers its Helix content delivery system. But the company has come under increasing competition in the nascent mobile phone multimedia market from long standing rival Microsoft as well as companies using open standards like MP3 and aacPlus.

"People are still testing the waters. We want to help monetize the platform," Goldstein said. "I would say the biggest challenges are figuring out what's the most appealing services to users and then getting those services out there in the market."

There are currently about 70 mobile phone operators worldwide that have installed the infrastructure in their networks needed to stream content in RealNetworks' format, Goldstein said. The company is looking not only to address the needs of those operators that are rapidly adding more multimedia content and services to handsets, but to additional operators as well. "RealNetworks would like to be on as many devices as possible," Goldstein said, "in terms of content, services and infrastructure."

As part of RealNetworks' expanded agreement with Nokia, in Espoo, Finland, the companies will work in partnership to develop media technology including the Helix DNA client media engine.

RealNetworks also announced a new Technology Compatibility Kit, aimed at allowing handset manufacturers to easily test the multimedia functionality of services using RealNetworks' Helix Universal Mobile platform.

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