RealNetworks Inc.: Surviving Despite Microsoft

By Steven Vonder Haar  |  Posted 2002-07-10 Print this article Print

Dossier: RealNetworks' ability to play on multiple operating systems beyond Windows is a big selling point but unlike Microsoft, Real charges corporations to stream its audio and video to corporate networks.

RealNetworks has to be better than free. PDF Download

RealNetworks typically charges corporations tens of thousands of dollars to license its streaming media servers and players for use in delivering audio and video on corporate networks. In contrast, rival Microsoft integrates its streaming technology into its operating systems at no extra cost.

A stumbling block for Real: Putting information systems managers through the hassle of distributing Real's client-side media player to employees. In response to this issue, Real introduced in April an application to automate the distribution of its desktop player software. But it could take months or longer before a company adds that feature.

"The player issue is the biggest one for us," says Blaise Gomes, manager of collateral development for Santa Clara, Calif.-based National Semiconductor. "It takes extra effort to get the (Real) players to everybody's desktop and working properly."

So, why stick with Real? "RealNetworks has always been able to stay an inch ahead of Microsoft in terms of quality," Gomes says, though others say there isn't such a big difference, especially when content is delivered at higher bandwidth speeds.

Based on the experiences of one company, it appears that usage of Real players for corporate projects is lagging. At Williams Energy Companies, industry news can be watched using either Real-Networks or Windows Media.

For those viewing archived material, which is typically accessed during off-hours from home computers, usage between RealNetworks and Windows Media is about evenly divided. However, during live Webcasts—when most workers are watching from office computers—nearly 90% of the viewership for Williams' EnergyNews-Live program comes from those with Windows Media players, says Scott Crane, Williams' manager of enterprise customer service applications.

Real's ability to play on multiple operating systems beyond Microsoft's Windows, such as Linux, is a big selling point, says Troy Burkman, multimedia team lead for IBM's global e-business transformation unit, which spends about $20,000 annually on service contracts that keep its licensed Real software current.

RealNetworks Inc.
2601 Elliott Ave., Suite 1000, Seattle WA 98121
(206) 674-2700

Ticker: RNWK
Exchange: NASDAQ
Employees: 800

Rob Glaser
Microsoft veteran, who founded company in 1994, succeeds where Netscape failed in surviving—so far— in Web platform war with Microsoft.

Larry Jacobson
Former Ticketmaster president has played role in guiding introduction of fee-based
properties, such as the RealOne subscription service.

Martin Plaehn
Senior Vice President, Media Systems
Leads the Real division responsible for developing the software that helps store, serve and deliver streaming media.

Develops players, distribution systems and publishing tools used in delivering online audio and video. Also provides ad-supported and subscription-based content-aggregation services.

Reference Checks

MFS Investment Management
Jerry Potts
Director, Marketing Communications
(617) 776-6376, Ext.110
Project: Boston-based firm develops 300 Webcasts annually, mostly featuring interviews with its fund managers.

Structural Group
Brian Gallagher
Director, Marketing
(410) 850-7000 Ext. 375
Project: Baltimore-based construction firm has video summaries of more than 900 projects. Content is used for training and sales.

Troy Burkman
Multimedia Team Lead, Global E-Business Transformation
(512) 436-1127
Project: Uses RealNetwork server licensed for up to 3,000 simultaneous streams to manage delivery of content such as security training seminars for software development groups.

National Semiconductor
Blaise Gomes
Manager, Collateral Development
(408) 721-5000
Project: Built library of 300 tapes of training videos, executive speeches and other content.

Mastercard International
Linda Locke
Vice President, Communications
Project: RealNetworks systems used for Webcasting employee meetings and training sessions, primarily to workers in a Missouri operations center.

California State University, Long Beach, College and Extension Services
Mat Kaplan
Senior Director, Advanced Technology
(562) 985-4111
Project: Uses both RealNetworks and Windows Media for delivering video-enriched online classes.

Executives listed here are all users of Real-Networks' streaming media technology for the enterprise. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.


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