graphicpush

Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Real Networks Gets It Right

Real Networks released the new RealPlayer 10, a revamped player that celebrates the company’s tenth anniversary of their first audio software.

Today Real Networks released the new RealPlayer 10, a revamped player that celebrates the company’s tenth anniversary of their first audio software. It uses a completely new engine and integrates Real’s new online music store.

Real’s technology has had its ups and downs. They dominated the streaming content market in the mid to late 90’s before licensing their technology to Microsoft, who basically improved and repackaged the code under Windows Media. (And in typical Redmond fashion, MS quickly eclipsed Real in the marketplace, to the point where RealMedia and Quicktime now lag behind the overwhelming market share of the Windows Media behemoth.)

But the new Real Player (available in both premium and free versions), gives users the ultimate flexibility—it plays all media types, including DRM-encrypted AAC files downloaded from iTunes, WMA files downloaded from the other stores, plus the standard MP3s, CDs, etc. In addition, Real’s own downloading technology utilizes AAC, albeit with a different DRM system, which is an open standard. This comes as no surprise considering their history with Microsoft and the current $1 billion lawsuit.

Blah blah blah … what does this have to do with design? Well, to be honest, RealPlayer 10 is a very well designed piece of consumer software. The interface uses a soft grey ala iTunes, and avoids the futuristic tech nonsense of Winamp and Musicmatch. Also, the iconography is beautiful—full color, intuitive icons that draw the eye and clearly represent the functionality. The drawbacks? Like MusicMatch, it tries to be player, browser, burner, news source, search engine and more at once, where iTunes excels as a simple music player.