RealPlayer for Mobile coming to Linux netbooks

Plays most video, with two glaring exceptions

Saying it will improve the netbook user experience on Linux, RealNetworks Inc. is licensing its RealPlayer for Mobile for the popular Ubuntu Linux distro running on x86 and coming ARM-based netbooks, as well as three up-and-coming "instant-on" Linux operating systems.

Besides Canonical Inc.'s Ubuntu, RealNetworks has signed deals with Xandros Inc. for its Presto instant-on Linux desktop, DeviceVM for its similar Splashtop product, and Phoenix Technologies Inc. for its also similar HyperSpace Linux environment.

RealPlayer for Mobile will be able to support HD video, depending on the netbook hardware, said Rishi Mathew, a director at RealNetworks. It will also be able to support the majority of audio and video formats out there, with the glaring exceptions of Flash videos (.flv) used by YouTube and Hulu.com for their Web videos, and DVD video, said Mathew ahead of the Computex trade show.

Neither the video resolution nor the codec support is why Mathew claims RealPlayer will be better for consumers than other video players available for Linux netbooks today such as mPlayer or VLC.

"One of the reasons for the higher return rates of Linux netbooks is that they came with unfamiliar media players," Mathew said.

By contrast, RealPlayer has been widely available on PCs since 1995. And an earlier version of RealPlayer for Mobile has shipped on 430 million smartphones.

Mathew said the new RealPlayer for Mobile will be similar in capability to the full RealPlayer for Windows and Linux desktop and notebook PCs.

Adding DVD capability is not a priority to RealPlayer for Mobile, since few netbooks come with DVD drives, but Flash video is. "We are getting there," he said.

RealPlayer will be the first of the big three PC media player apps to be available on Linux. Neither Microsoft's Windows Media Player nor Apple Inc.'s QuickTime run on Linux.

Mathew says that Intel Atom N270 netbooks with Intel's 945 Express graphics chipset -- the most popular platform today -- running RealPlayer will be able to support hiccup-free video at full WVGA (800x480) resolution, which is slightly sharper than a standard-definition TV.

ARM-based netbooks using Qualcomm's Snapdragon chipset or Texas Instruments' similar 3430 platform should be able to match that quality, he said.

"Performance is pretty good, it's similar to what you would expect with any other netbook today," Mathew said.

To get up to 1080p (1920x1080) HD resolution, netbooks running RealPlayer will need to be using chips such as Intel's Atom Z530 CPU paired with an HD graphics accelerator, he said. Hewlett-Packard Co.'s just announced Mini 1101 offers 1080p.

The RealPlayer will have no advertising, apart from messages touting RealNetworks' own video and music services, he said. Sales from that will be shared with RealNetworks' partners.

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Eric Lai

Computerworld (US)
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