RealNetworks (formerly Progressive Networks--see Multimedia News Briefs), a leader in the streaming media market, has made two recent announcements. It has begun a joint development project with Audible Inc. and has also announced its acquisition of substantial assets of Film.com (http://www.film.com), a leading source for professional film reviews on the Internet.
Joint Development Project
Audible, Inc. is a new company that designed a system to enable consumers to download spoken audio via the Internet for mobile playback. The two companies are developing a solution that will soon make it possible for consumers to download RealAudio spoken audio content from the Web for mobile playback on Audible's new portable, hand-held PC peripheral.
This will mark the first time that consumers can access RealAudio spoken content away from the PC, according to the company, by downloading compressed digital audio files and storing them on Audible's 3.5 ounce Audible player for playback anytime, anywhere. This new mobility is expected to appeal to the estimated 84 million people who drive alone to work each day, the 50 million people who exercise regularly, and the more than 20 million Web users who have downloaded Progressive Network's RealPlayers.
The mobile solution for RealAudio brings an added dimension to the Audible system, which will be introduced this fall. The cornerstone of the system is Audible's play back peripheral, the Audible player, and a vast selection of spoken audio content available for purchase from Audible's Web-based store (http://www.audible.com). At launch, the Audible.com store will offer more than 10,000 hours of spoken audio programming from close to 60 leading audiobook publishers, business conference providers, and educational and cultural institutions. Programs will be available for purchase, download, and listening using the Audible player with headphones or via any automobile stereo system. The agreement between RealNetworks and Audible, Inc. means that RealAudio content can be accessed and played back via the Audible player in addition to content from the Audible.com store.
"We believe there is a spoken audio boom afoot in the culture. It involves the burgeoning popularity of audiobooks, continuing education courses, the lecture circuit, public readings, business training, motivational materials, and the innumerable examples of spoken-word audio on the Internet," said Don Katz, co-founder and CEO of Audible, Inc. "As a result of this alliance with RealNetworks, the tens of thousands of Web sites that stream audio via RealNetworks' server technology will be able to offer listeners the option of quickly taking audio away from the PC for mobile playback. Internet users will be able to program their drive time and exercise time to listen to material they could previously hear only at their computers."
The Audible player will hold close to 2 hours of RealAudio (.RA) content. Current providers of RealNetworks streaming audio will be able to upgrade so that they can provide to their customers the benefits of mobility using current file formats.
"Taking RealAudio content from the computer and putting it in the palms of people's hands via the Audible player represents a powerful step in the evolution of the Internet," said Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. "Offering listeners unmatched convenience, affordability, and quality of content, this alliance is also one of the first to extend the reach and impact of the Internet far beyond the confines of the computer. …