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Media (Apple) Media The Almighty Buck Entertainment

Ask RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser 379

Posted by Roblimo
from the raising-Steve-Jobs'-blood-pressure dept.
RealNetworks has always been more Linux-friendly than other streaming media purveyors, and is now moving closer to the open source camp with its Helix Community effort. More recently, Real has made a big media splash by selling downloadable tunes in an iPod-compatible format. Does any of this matter, considering that world + dog seems to be jumping on the downloadable multimedia bandwagon? Can Real once again become "the" streaming media leader? Will Real's 49 cent "limited time only" song download price force other music download vendors to cut their prices? We have no idea, but hopefully Rob Glaser does. He's promised to answer your questions personally (rather than have PR people speak for him). So ask whatever you like. We'll forward 10 of the highest-moderated questions to him by email and post his answers soon after he gets them back to us.
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Ask RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser

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  • Apple Support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ack154 (591432) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:51AM (#10178425)
    Since RealNetworks is all for "compatibility" and getting their stuff to play on the iPod, when do they plan to offer support for Macintosh users in the Rhapsody music store?
    • Re:Apple Support (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:26PM (#10178884) Homepage
      If I can add:

      Since RealNetworks objects to Apple constraining use of their proprietary formats, when does RealNetworks plan to set an example by opening up all of their file formats for free use and modification by other competing companies?

      • Yes, ASK THIS (Score:5, Interesting)

        by djw (3187) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:25PM (#10179726)
        I can't moderate the parent any higher, since it's already at 5. But folks, this is the only question on the page that's actually worth asking.

        Real is one of the few companies left that controls a common file format and doesn't also publish an OS. And they're everywhere, from Amazon to NPR. Spyware? DRM? Distractions. This is the ball game. Nothing else matters.

      • Re:Apple Support (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ericdano (113424)
        Exactly. Why the dichotomy? And why the back tracking? Why say you think the iPod isn't going to be a success, then all of a sudden want part of it's action?
      • Re:Apple Support (Score:5, Insightful)

        by citiZen2010 (802381) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:17PM (#10180554)

        Interesting addition to the question, but unfortunately it is based on a presumption that is not technically correct. Both Apple and Real use the same compression format (MPEG AAC) in their music stores. This is not a proprietary format. It is a standard. It can be decoded with a cheap ASIC, which is why it is a popular choice for portable digital music devices.

        I believe what RealNetworks objects to is that Apple is not licensing their "fairplay" DRM technology to allow other legal music download stores (such as Real's) to offer their product to iPod owners.

        The important question here is: "Why can't all of the technology companies unify under one common, open DRM solution so every device works with every music store and vice versa?" However, this question is probably better posed to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates than to Rob Glaser. When are those guys going to do a slashdot interview?

        The reason that nobody can unite behind a single DRM technology is that certain technology companies would either like to own the music download and device business completely (Apple), or they would like their DRM solution to become the defacto standard so they can become a toll collector on all digital music transactions (Microsoft). Personally, I don't like either of those possibilities, and I'm glad to see a company putting a wrench in those plans, even if it's RealNetworks.

        • Re:Apple Support (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:59PM (#10181193) Homepage
          Interesting addition to the question, but unfortunately it is based on a presumption that is not technically correct. Both Apple and Real use the same compression format (MPEG AAC) in their music stores. This is not a proprietary format.

          I'm aware of that, but what is a format, really? By adding the DRM, you've changed the way the file works- or at least the routine by which it's accessed. I think your objection is a bit of a red herring, though technically correct.

          The important question here is: "Why can't all of the technology companies unify under one common, open DRM solution so every device works with every music store and vice versa?"......I'm glad to see a company putting a wrench in those plans, even if it's RealNetworks

          Oh, I pray to god they don't. I'd rather the various companies remain deadlocked. If they come to a common DRM, it's very unlikely to be open, and in any event, it's likely to make DRM an accepted societal norm. Far better that these companies continue to fight it out publicly, crippling consumer goods as they go, drawing attention to the problems inherent in the idea of DRM.

        • Re:Apple Support (Score:3, Interesting)

          I don't really think a common DRM scheme is in the cards as of yet. CSS was a good example with DVD protection. With one ubiquitous DRM format, you're left with the "if one person cracks it, everything's cracked" issue.

          Although, I do feel that everyone should follow suit in that music players should support a plethora of DRM formats, and the format should be open to player manufacturers that sign a similar contract to that of DVD's CSS. That way, everyone wins, and inovation is encouraged for stronger form
  • What's it like (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    To have so many people hate your company/product? And I mean really hate, with a fiery passion?
    • by Mr Guy (547690) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:57AM (#10178529) Journal
      Boy, this question is really flirting with the line. Real has become one of those companies that geeks put in the catagory of "wouldn't piss on if they were on fire". How are they trying to fix those mistakes? Cutting the price isn't enough when people feel tainted for even using your product.
    • Re:What's it like (Score:2, Interesting)

      by flewp (458359)
      And also, how do you feel regarding RealAlternative for MPC?

      Also, how do you really plan on setting yourself apart and being more linux-USER friendly? Most, if not all people who use linux I know also use Real Alternative for MPC on their Windows machines/partitions as opposed to the actual Real Player.
      • Also, how do you really plan on setting yourself apart and being more linux-USER friendly?
        Apparently I'm playing the role of Real advocate today. Regardless, have you tried out RealPlayer 10?
  • by erick99 (743982) <homerun@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:51AM (#10178430)
    How much wiggle room is there in the pricing of the songs? Forty-nine cents a song has made me a customer of Real's for now ( I haven't tried any .99 cent services - don't want to pay that much). I know it's unlikely that music can be sold that inexpensively but we know it doesn't have to be .99 since WalMart is doing .88. So, I am wondering what RealNetworks' pricing strategy will be. While I understand you cannot differentiate on price alone, the rest isn't going to matter if the price is .99. I just won't buy at that price (yes, obviously others will, but I maintain that multiples more will at a sustained, lower price).

    Cheers,

    Erick

  • RealPod (Score:5, Funny)

    by Solder Fumes (797270) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:53AM (#10178469)
    If Apple continues to make a

    Buffering....

    Buffering....

    fuss about this, does Real have any plans

    Buffering....

    Buffering....

    to develop a competing portable music player?
  • interoperability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Refrag (145266) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:53AM (#10178471) Homepage
    Rob, why doesn't Real drop all the pretense of desiring to have an interoperable solution with the Ipod and actually use one for their downloads site? The Ipod supports a few standard file formats and one DRM encumbered one. If Real were really about customer choice, they'd sell non DRM encumbered files and then be able to shout from a mountain that their music works with the Ipod as well as almost every other digital media player.
    • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:05PM (#10178633) Journal
      This is an excellent question, but if I may take a shot at the answer -- major labels simply aren't going to license their music in straight MP3 (or Ogg Vorbis or whathaveyou) format. Opting for DRM-free tracks basically limits you to being MP3.com II.
      • Re:interoperability (Score:3, Informative)

        by cjpez (148000)
        I agree that the major labels certainly won't go for straight MP3, at least not for time time being, but there are some encouraging trends going on with some labels/bands who seem to "get it."

        So, certainly no BMI groups in there, or anything, but here's hoping that it'll trickle up a bit...

      • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:37PM (#10179047) Homepage
        Like many people, I'm stuck in a conundrum. I don't want to buy CDs any more because I think music should be cheaper due to cheap electronic distribution. I buy occasionally from iTunes, but fears about "losing my music" when my iBook dies and I forget to back it up often enough or some other weird technical thing renders me music-less because of DRM scares me. And I spend a lot of time listening to music on unsupported players. I like xmms, and I'm going to keep using it, so iTunes means I have to burn+rip to convert stuff. (I finally compiled hymn, but need my key off my iBook, I'm lazy, and xmms's aac player module seems to not compile...*sigh*)

        I have basically all the money I want to spend on music. But whether tracks are $.39 or $.99 or $1.99 means nothing to me if I'm worried about just losing them. Some of this music I've already had ripped ot mp3 for like 7+ years now, and I can't even count the number of computers I've gone through, and it's nice and portable.

        I think at some point, a brave label or two will band together, open their own store, and just offer raw 160+kbps mp3s for something cheap - probably $.49 to $1.49 for singles (probably based on the buzz level), $2.99 to $9.99 for a cd (again, popularity based pricing)... and will open the floodgates. They will do so much business they will be absolutely stunned. Ever music consumer will be amazingly spending 3x what they use to be. Record companies will be delightfully rolling in profits; consumers will be awash in music and ecstatic... everyone wins. Artists who couldn't sell CDs in the bargain bin will find audiences who will pay $2.99 for their albums, and the music industry as a whole will launch into a new era of growth.

        We can only hope they realize that peoplpe hate hurdles, and DRM stops more customers from buying than it stops pirates from buying. Anyone with a clue should realize that a lot of music pirates will NOT buy music regardless of whether its free or not. If it is, they'll get it; if not, they won't. But either way, they won't pay. But many customers will pay for unencumbered music but will buy minimally or not at all from the DRM bin.
    • That would be if they could convince the record companies to offer their music without DRM, of course. Even Apple couldn't pull that one off.
    • by Wildfire Darkstar (208356) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:08PM (#10178682)
      Yeah, because then Real's music store will leap to the head of the online music market with its impressive collection of public domain jingles and amateur-recorded classical music.

      How on earth is this post insightful? Even if we assume that Real was willing to use an unencumbered format, then what about the actual copyright holders, like the RIAA, who have made very clear that this sort of thing would be totally unacceptable? By the same token, why doesn't Apple sell unencumbered MP3s (or AACs, or whatever your particular poison is in this case) so that Linux users can play them without the hassle of messing around with Wine?

      Let's keep some perspective on this whole thing, folks....
    • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:58PM (#10179338)
      This is a stupid question, don't waste an interview question on something like this.

      The answer is as follows:

      To compete with Napster 2.0, MSN Music and iTunes, Real needs to have a similar amount of music available to them, and a similar amount of big names.

      The big names are, for the most part, only available through labels that are members of the RIAA. You can gripe about this if you want, but the fact is that the artists *signed* the form to grant the label distribution rights, and that's exactly what the label is doing.

      For Real to get these big names, they need to deal with the RIAA. The RIAA has shown in the past that it will not endorse any music that is not restricted in some fashion... either streaming, or DRM. If the best Steve Jobs could do was 7 playlist burns, you can bet that Real can't do any better.

      There. I just answered the question and I'm not even CEO of anything at all. Poof.
  • by Performer Guy (69820) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:56AM (#10178507)
    Given the ongoing struggle for control of content distribution via proprietary formats, do you see any hope for more vendor neutral formats that don't tie customers to one particular 'technology'? It seems that constantly changing formats often have more to do with vendor lockin than genuine technological differentiation. What is Real doing to improve this situation and are other vendors likely to cooperate?
  • Okay, please leave out lame cliches like this when posting to slashdot. It makes me sad.
  • by adisakp (705706) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:57AM (#10178536) Journal
    Why does Real player force you to install 100 things you don't need and place icons everywhere, add bloated background tasks / services, insert an item into the task tray, popup daily "real news", take over major formats, etc, when many people only use it to view videos that aren't in any other format? Why don't any of the major software companies offer a lean clean, cruft free version of their software? If REAL offered that, I'd pay for the minimal version before the expanded one!
  • Spyware (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mocular (635667) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:59AM (#10178546)
    Since RealNetworks has been documented as a purveyor of spyware both in the news and in the courts, why should we trust anything that your company does?

    Will your company ever stop the spyware attacks on users of your products?

    Why should we believe anything you say?

  • Goodwill (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:59AM (#10178558) Journal
    Real has gone from a company that I once recommended to being viewed as antagonistic with its customers. From webpages that misdirect people to the non-free Real player, to the ever bloated software, spyware etc. Now it seems as Real is going down the "me too" road, and instead of creating a product people search for, is just another pea in the iPod (sorry about the pun).

    Why exactly would I look to Real for anything? What is better (other than price) about anything Real has to offer, compared to Apple, Microsoft, etc? What compelling reason do you offer for me to again look at Real?
    • Real has gone from a company that I once recommended to being viewed as antagonistic with its customers.

      Well, I don't know that I really ever recommended it to anyone in the first place, but I definitely dislike them more now than ever before.

      Is it possible to issue a company a cease and desist order for their own benefit? (:
      • When streaming audio on the internet was in its infancy Real Player (or, Real Audio Player, as video playback wasn't even in the player) was a very good program, innovative, inventive, etc. I did recommend it.

        Not anymore.
  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by Have Blue (616)
    Just so we can move on to the serious questions, please put all "Buffering..." jokes below this post.
  • Helix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikeMacK (788889) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:02PM (#10178598)
    What prompted the creation of the Helix community? Does Real see open source as a way to differentiate themselves from Apple and Microsoft, or where there other considerations?
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:03PM (#10178607) Journal
    There is a question behind this:

    As it is, RealPlayer is universally despised for several reasons, many of them valid. the few that grind me are:

    1. It's more than one click away from the main website.

    2. It tries to take over your system as a default media system and sign you up for all kinds of spam on install.

    3. It's BUTT ugly. It looks like the rejects from the XP UI team were hired to design it, when the rejects from the QuickTime UI team would have been a better choice.

    4. I can't DL the content of RealMedia, like I can with mpeg or quickTime.

    5. It's a bit [buffering 10%] too eager [buffering 25%] to send media [buffering 40%] before it's [buffering 75%] ready. And scrubbing [buffering 85%] is nearly [buffering 95%] impossible.

    Fix these problems, and people might take Real Seriously. So the question is:

    WHEN are you going to fix these OBVIOUS deficiencies that have plagued the player for YEARS?

    RS

    • by cjpez (148000) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:20PM (#10178815) Homepage Journal
      1. It's more than one click away from the main website.
      How many clicks does it take for you to click "Download" on www.real.com [real.com]?
      2. It tries to take over your system as a default media system and sign you up for all kinds of spam on install.
      The RealPlayer available by clicking on that link I mentioned does none of these things. (Though I admit I haven't installed the Windows version)
      3. It's BUTT ugly. It looks like the rejects from the XP UI team were hired to design it, when the rejects from the QuickTime UI team would have been a better choice.
      Since you're obviously not familiar with what's been happening recently at Real, I should point out that the RealPlayer available at said link uses a different GUI than the previous versions.
      4. I can't DL the content of RealMedia, like I can with mpeg or quickTime.
      This is still true, of course.
      5. It's a bit [buffering 10%] too eager [buffering 25%] to send media [buffering 40%] before it's [buffering 75%] ready. And scrubbing [buffering 85%] is nearly [buffering 95%] impossible.
      I haven't had this problem on the new version, though I never really had any problems with it for the past few versions of RP either. I've just got a standard DSL line. Perhaps you've just got a sucky connection.
      WHEN are you going to fix these OBVIOUS deficiencies that have plagued the player for YEARS?
      When are you going to check to make sure you're not posting outdated information that's no longer true?
      • by Blue Stone (582566) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:46PM (#10180035) Homepage Journal
        "How many clicks does it take for you to click "Download" on www.real.com [real.com]?"

        Several, actually.

        I get redirected to "uk.real.com/radiopass/?&src=ZG.uk.idx" from real.com, and I have to select the 'RadioPass Trial' download button because there is no free player link anywhere to be seen.

        I then have to deselect some "free trial offer!" tick-boxes and enter an e-mail address, say I'm a new customer ... so i guess they expect me to register and give a password ... and a credit card!

        I think my question has to be: why is your company the cunt of the media software world?

    • 4. I can't DL the content of RealMedia, like I can with mpeg or quickTime.

      Actually, that's not true. If you're streaming real media with a streaming server, you can't download it. If you're streaming QuickTime with the QuickTime/Darwin Streaming Server, you can't download it. If you're streaming MPEG with *cast, you can't download it.

      Most of the time, though, you can. Most of those 30 byte Real files just contain an http URL for the actual content....

  • Turnabout? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:03PM (#10178608) Journal
    What would you do if the next version of Quicktime could play .rm files, even ones with DRM? Suppose that they respect the DRM, and only play on authorized computers. Suppose Quicktime Pro were capable of creating .rm files with DRM.

    Why shouldn't Apple do this?
  • by johnjones (14274) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:03PM (#10178609) Homepage Journal
    hi

    could real allow people to create and sign their REAL media that they created at no cost ?

    so allow people to create their own online stores rather than sign up to itunes or MSN

    this way you just sell server software to ISP's and streaming people (profitable)

    regards

    John Jones
  • by Progman3K (515744) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:03PM (#10178610)
    A long time ago, when Windows 3.1 was new, I appreciated RealPlayer for it's cutting edge technology and highly-optimized video/audio codecs.
    But as time went on, Real became a company I distrusted due to their spyware-like behaviour and the fact they tried to hide options to disable said behaviour in their software.

    It has gotten to the point where MANY computer users I know simply refuse to install ANY Real products on their computers anymore and even boycott web sites that offer content in Real-only format.

    So, why should I trust your company now? How has any of that changed?

    Thanks.

    Disclaimer - The preceding may have resembled a flame or troll to those who cannot tell the difference between an honset question and a troll.
    • by cjpez (148000) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:23PM (#10178859) Homepage Journal
      and the fact they tried to hide options to disable said behaviour in their software
      What exactly was hidden? I remember some unpleasant behavior in older RealPlayer versions, but turning those behaviors off was never more than going into the options screen and knowing which tabs to click on.
      How has any of that changed?
      A fairly good argument to be made is that, in fact, RealPlayer 10 has addressed most of the issues present with older RP versions.
    • It has gotten to the point where MANY computer users I know simply refuse to install ANY Real products on their computers anymore and even boycott web sites that offer content in Real-only format.

      Right here. Straight up refusal.

      The gui appearance is horrible, the long commerical the player plays the first time you run it.. those two things top the Reasons To Not Use Real list for me.

      To Real's Credit: you don't have to uncheck 20something boxes to turn off what their marketing people want turned on, and
  • Legality of Harmony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by halo1982 (679554) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:04PM (#10178620) Homepage Journal
    Are you concerned at all that Apple might sue Real under the DMCA for basically hacking the iPod to allow compatibility between Real and the iPod? If Apple does do this, what measures are you taking to make sure that the files people buy from Rhapsody will continue to play on their iPod after Apple locks Harmony out using a firmware update or something similar, and would you offer refunds to people with iPods who purchased music on Rhapsody?
  • by escher (3402) <`the.mind.walrus' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:05PM (#10178624) Homepage Journal
    Remember when you fired us all with no warning and stole all our stock options through a technicality?

    That sucked.
    • Re:Hey Rob G... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:26PM (#10178885)
      I think this would be a good one - perhaps even better than the spyware questions people are asking. It's a pattern and a corporate culture of not caring that Real emboddies; and when they recognised the bad PR around spyware they pretty much whitewashed over that issue.

      Asking the not-too-obvious but deeply related issue of a company that doesn't give a f*ck about people might get a more honest answer because he doesn't have PR handlers coaching him on this point.

      • Re:Hey Rob G... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lord_Dweomer (648696)
        "Asking the not-too-obvious but deeply related issue of a company that doesn't give a f*ck about people might get a more honest answer because he doesn't have PR handlers coaching him on this point."

        Um.....what exactly makes you think the PR handlers aren't going to have say over every character he types in response to this? They're sending him some questions, he gets to take his time to research and respond in the best way possible. Yeah, its an interview with the man at the top, but don't be expecting

    • As much hated Real is, I haven't heard the whole story?
      • by escher (3402) <`the.mind.walrus' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:10PM (#10179502) Homepage Journal
        When I was hired at Real the stock price was around $52-$54 dollars per share. I was given 10,000 shares in exchange for lower pay. Later the stock tanked, diving down to $9 per share.

        Real then did what was viewed at the time as the coolest thing ever: The stock re-entrant program thingy (I forget exactly what it was called.) What it meant was that whatever the stock price was on August 31st of that year would be retroactively applied to our shares, including those that had already vested.

        Rock on. Quite a few of us signed up for it on the promise of making our now-worthless shares valuable again. There was some fine print, of course. We had to remain employed at Real or we would lose all our stock, including vested shares.

        The bastards fired us one month before the deadline. No warning. Our floor managers didn't even know until that morning that 15% of the entire company would be layed off that day.

        I went out for lunch (yummy fish tacos!) and when I returned there was a group of employees and some security guards outside the front door. They weren't letting anyone in. After half an hour word spread that there were layoffs happening but we didn't have any details.

        Finally a guy in a really expensive suit came down and told us to go home. We be getting a phone call later that evening to let us know if we still had a job.

        The next day I was unemployeed and competing with 30,000 other out-of-work programmers in the Seattle area for jobs.

        Now I'm back in Montana making $9/hr and eating a fair amount of ramen.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    <bufferring>
  • FairPlay licensing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by d_jedi (773213) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:06PM (#10178643)
    Why was Real unable to license the FairPlay technology from Apple? Did Apple simply refuse, or were their terms unworkable?
  • Nice, but.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dacarr (562277) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:06PM (#10178652) Homepage Journal
    While I find it wonderful that Real has embraced Linux, your subsidiary, listen.com [listen.com], seems antagonistic toward Linux, making it quite clear that they have no plans at this time to move their Rhapsody player to Linux. This tells me of a bit of a dichotomy in your company. Are there plans to resolve this?
  • Real Obnoxious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by loteck (533317) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:06PM (#10178655) Homepage
    Why is Real so intrusive into the average windows system when using the express installation method? Why must the player install shortcuts on the desktop, in the start menu in several places, in the quicklaunch bar, in the favorites, etc., and why must it hijack my file associations? If i delete these shortcuts, why are they -ever- recreated by Real without asking me?

    Why is the free version the hardest version to find on your website?

    Why must I choose a custom install and play a game of "catch-em-all" to avoid some of these issues?

    Why does Real assume I'm interested in news, updates, libraries, or any of the nonsense that it is configured for by your company?

    In short, why does Real feel the need to be so Obnoxious? These are "real" questions posed by "real" users, like here [jogin.com] and supported by your own employees [jogin.com]!

    • Re:Real Obnoxious (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mst76 (629405)
      Oh come on, you can do better than that. I'm not saying these answers represent my view, just showing how they could be answered by Glaser.

      Why is Real so intrusive into the average windows system when using the express installation method? [...]
      The Realplayer installation is not intrusive. It is customary practice for many software packages aimed at a general public to install visible and easily discoverable ways to launch them. Experienced users can customize their installations to a large degree. M
  • Strategy Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:09PM (#10178691)
    Strategically speaking, Real doesn't look to be in a very promising position. Its technology, once unique (RealAudio), is now ubiquitous. Its marketing has been, by any account of which I am aware, a disaster. Now it seems like there is no area in which Real has any real strength or over its competitors - RealMedia is eclipsed by Windows Media, iTunes rules the day in downloading and Microsoft is entering that market as well.

    Rob, what advantages does Real bring to the table? What can Real do that no other company can do? Why does Real exist? What the hell are you doing?
  • by adzoox (615327) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:13PM (#10178735) Journal
    Many questions will center around this topic I'm sure, but hopefully I'm asking a unique question here:

    In your PR for Harmony - you stated that this was a ground up software approach.

    Was there ANY reverse engineering?

    I also find it VERY hard to believe that you didn't borrow some code from HYMN to produce this software - will you emphatically and categorically deny any code borrowing or reverse engineering?

  • by michaeldouma (311409) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:13PM (#10178737) Homepage
    There's a lot of spin going on at Real's new Freedom of Music Choice [freedomofmusicchoice.org] site. Clearly, Real was not expecting such a profound and immediate [slashdot.org] backlash. It must be frustrating [slashdot.org] that Apple gets to be both an underdog and a monopoly at the same time. But despite the feel good claims [freedomofmusicchoice.org] on your Freedom site (did you really write those?), your price drop, reverse engineering, and activism are hardly riling up the public. What have you learned from this?
  • Harmony [realnetworks.com]!=FairPlay [apple.com]
    apple could keep upgrading Fairplay [just like yahoo and msn keep upgrading their authentication scheme
    of their IMs to keep away third-party IM's like gaim [sourceforge.net] and trillian [trillian.cc]]...
    would Harmony keep up with Fairplay just as well ?.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:17PM (#10178781)
    Regarding your little PR war with Apple: Did you ever consider the stunning hypocrisy of your publicly complaining that Apple doesn't offer its users choice of online music stores, and then turning around and making a music store that only supports computers that run Windows?
  • Real Movies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by prostoalex (308614) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:19PM (#10178793) Homepage Journal
    How successful os the Real Movies partnership with Starz? I am a paid subscriber, and so far the service has been pretty impressive - I can download a 100 movies at any point, and 25 new ones are added each week. Are there any future plans for the Starz/Real partnership?

    Will you offer the movies that currently play in movie theaters for additional fees? Will you offer the movies that just came out on DVDs?

    Will you promote independent movies and if I work for an independent studio, how can we strike a partnership with Real Networks to distribute the content to your subscribers in some affordable way?

  • legalities (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jest3r (458429) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:22PM (#10178836)
    Mr. Glaser, What is your stance towards the reverse engineering of codecs and encryption schemes meant to create a glimmer of profitability in an industry plagued by pirates? What would you do if a competitor such as Microsoft reverse engineered the Real codec to turn a profit?

  • by barcodez (580516) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:22PM (#10178840)
    Please open source these formats because I don't what to install a different mediaplayer for each format - it's boring.
  • First off (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:22PM (#10178846) Homepage
    While all the topics presented at the beginning of this thread are interesting, I think most slashdot users (and real users in general) are much more interested in the various foolish choices made in the design of the real player client. Why is the "express" installation so horribly unusable and why is it made so difficult to turn off all the various disruptive features of real player when you do a custom installation (i.e. setting it up so that it doesn't hijack all your file associations, make icons everywhere, etc.). I mean, come on, nobody wants to view JPEGs with real player and hardly anybody wants real player in their quicklaunch tray. Furthermore, since I know Real has addressed these issues in the past and promised a less hostile installer, what the heck is keeping you guys! And on a more aesthetic note, I think it was a silly choice to make real one use a non-standard window. It just looks stupid.
  • by Goeland86 (741690) <goeland_86 AT yahoo DOT fr> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:25PM (#10178878)
    Do you hope that at one point in time Real's position on open-source will encourage hardware manufacturers of portable music devices to port their drivers to linux (i.e. Dell's Jukebox) and use a Real program as a music library program? In other words does Real hope to push the linux perspective into the media market? As a linux user I feel a little left out of the hype because even though it's growing it doesn't seem like enough corporations bother to notice it.
  • I would think that it will be impossible for you to compete with Microsoft and Apple in the long-term both regarding streaming media (MS will never let you own this) and music downloads (besides, I take it that Apple is MS's fig leaf of choice with the anti-trust people). Why will you survive and are you really just looking to sell the company to the highest bidder - e.g, MS or Apple?
  • by CdBee (742846) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:28PM (#10178908)
    My question to Mr.Glaser is this: Real has made much of its Opensource initiatives, but why is it that the OSS Helix Player is not available for Windows?

    Helix must build on Windows as its the basis for all your software, but Win32 users are forced to use the RealPlayer, which some may find undesirable... while other platforms have the option of Helix without proprietary codecs. Is this really choice ?
  • by Monoman (8745)
    Many techies consider Real Player (Windows clients) an unfriendly application (resource intensive, invasive, and hard to remove) and avoid installing it whenever possible. Is Real aware of the poor image in regards to this? If so, what steps are they taking to fix the problem.

  • by Blondie-Wan (559212) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:33PM (#10178967) Homepage
    From everything I've read, the margins in the paid music downloads business are razor-thin, since the overwhelming majority of the money goes to the record labels, and most of what little is left apparently just pays for costs (Apple's major motivation in offering the iTMS is reportedly simply as a way to promote iPod sales). Is all this true? If not, what is a more accurate breakdown, and if so, why bother? Obviously there are lots of companies offering downloadable songs for small amounts of money, but hardly anyone seems to be making anything from it. Real in particular has gone to fairly considerable lengths to attempt to offer DRM'd downloads that'll play on the iPod, and to sweet-talk or arm-twist Apple into allowing it. Why? What's the attraction, if there's so little money to be had from song downloads in the first place?
  • Astroturfing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Snap E Tom (128447)
    It's well known by now that freedomofmusicchoice.org is just an astroturfing attempt. It has generated a lot of backlash. Were there any ethical debates about launching such a site? What was the internal reaction at Real to the backlash?
  • How can you claim to be pro-open source and pro-Linux, but maintain a website (according to former webmasters) where the free and linux versions of your player are intentially obfuscated and hidden?

  • I hate how when they ask you stuff you want to install just after the visible window all the stuff is checked off and the underhanded tactics they use. Their applications are so close to mal-ware it's crazy. Real can burn for all I care.
  • My question is.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by borgheron (172546) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:39PM (#10179069) Homepage Journal
    Would you consider Steve's rejection of your proposal more of the hubris for which he is famous and does it ultimately doom Apple to being a niche player?
  • by SQLz (564901)
    Why does your company suck so bad?
  • Though the Helix initiative is an EXCELLENT step forward, I'm curious if Real will be providing open-source, backwards compatability encoders and decoders for previous versions of RP. A lot of companies have stuck with older versions for various reasons, but it would be nice to have a drop-in replacement for existing technologies rather than having to upgrade everything (including older movies/streams.)
  • Streambox (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:05PM (#10179445)
    Rob,

    Is there any difference between Apple invoking the DMCA on Real's reverse engineering of FairPlay and Real's prior DMCA invocation against Streambox?

    http://zdnet.com.com/2100-11-517481.html?legacy= zd nn

    Also, what is your favorite kind of pie?
  • by rspress (623984) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:06PM (#10179455) Homepage
    Rob, What will you do when Apple breaks your downloaded files with an iPod update? Will you refund the customers money if the files do not play. Since you have burned your bridge in licensing fairplay what will happen when your reversing engineering rises to the level of code theft?

    And as a side question, How come your company sued another company reverse engineering your codecs? Seems what should be good for the goose should be good for the gander.
  • Yes, because he wouldn't have to audacity to forward our questions to his PR people, and then reply with their responses, would he?

    Slashdotters and open-source types are just a new target market for them. I think they view us as Honda views street racers - not a significant enough chunk to make money from, but damn, does it give you street cred if they like your products. Every public response they make to us will be vetted to appeal to that demographic.

    -j
  • Real Cancer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by augustz (18082) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:28PM (#10179765) Homepage
    In this time of ethics (and their lack) at the corporate level, how do you feel Real measures up in having EARNED (not just claimed) customer trust.

    Do you compare yourselves to folks like Google who even my mother trusts totally?

    I ask this in light of your consistent corporate behavior, which has included:

    - You used to spam me to no end. And this spamming was EPIC, I still can not believe how much junk you, and how impossible it was to stop getting it.

    - Your player started taking over my system, including "important" pop up messages in my "message center" that were nothing but commercial pitches. Do you have any idea what is important in people's lives? Not buying more goldpass/superpass combo's!

    - This behavior was clearly calculated, and the options to disable this bloated junk was extremely hard to access or enable (it poped up a warning dialog).

    - The fact that corporate help desk folks shudder when end users express install the end user version of the real player virus on their PC's.

    - The fact that when I visit older folks I inevitably find that their system has been taken over by Real, and that in addition to the desktop, system tray, message center junk, the associations they have selected (IMAGES in Realplayer? please) make no sense.

    Have you focused on serving your customers, or screwing the folks who installed your software for as much cash as you could get from them while hiding behind claims of "features" and "benefits".

    Before you claim trust, you have to change the people behind the claim.
  • So now that Real is all about Open Source and all that, what would keep Real from offering the option of Vorbis for music downloads?
  • GPL (Score:3, Funny)

    by SlashDread (38969) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @01:50PM (#10180084)
    All your products please?

    Pretty please?

    "/Dread"
  • by jerkychew (80913) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:11PM (#10180462) Homepage
    I've been in the computer industry since 1995 or so. In that time, I've seen lots of software come and go, and lots of less-than-ethical tricks to keep users hooked on one piece of software instead of another. In my 9 years or so, I've never seen any product as consistently sneaky as Real's media player. I remember back when RealAudio would make itself the default player for every media type it could without asking, which would annoy the tech-savvy user and scare those of us that are less technical.

    While it seems that Real has backed its intrusiveness down a notch during the install, I still feel like Real is telling me what to do on my computer instead of the other way around. For example - Telling Real not to start when windows starts is no easy task. I have to go through 3 or four submenus in the preferences until I find the vaguely-named SmartCenter (or StartCenter? I don't have a machine handy to doublecheck the name). Even then, when I tell it not to start with Windows, I am greeted by a scary warning message. Even with SmartCenter disabled, Real's update service still lives in my registry, starting every time I boot windows.

    So my question is, why try so hard to force your software on the user? Is it worth the market share to anger and confuse your core audience? Mention Real to the average user, and their first response is "I hate that software. I wish I knew how to delete it."

    I've always been taught that it's best to make your customers happy, instead of holding them hostage. Does your business model say otherwise?
  • Airtunes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hedley (8715) <hedley@pacbell.net> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:28PM (#10180726) Journal
    Dr Mr Glaser,

    Do you plan to support streaming via Airtunes's protocol to adapters such as the Airport Express?

    Thanks!

    Hedley
  • by telemonster (605238) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:52PM (#10181087) Homepage
    I have a web site that runs about 16 real time streaming audio feeds. I went to the mp3 format for compatibility. In my recommendations to our visitors, I strictly recommend AGAINST installing any RealPlayer products, due to the fact that the player is clunky and appears to take over many file type associations.

    Have you considered a stripped down, player only utility for the Windows platform? I understand your desire to market other services, but honestly the current Real One offering is more of a burden on the system than it is worth.

    Why do you expect content providers would pay for your Real studio application to create content for such a horrible player?

    Just a CODEC to plug into Microsoft Media Player 9 would be great. Personally I use utilities to convert the RealMedia format the MPEG1, to avoid the hassle of dealing with your player product.

    The earlier Windows Media production suite was also a blatent rip off of your Real Producer product. I can see Microsoft had their eyes on your company.

    I haven't tried Media Player 10, maybe Microsoft took your lead in making a player utility that is bloated, slow, resource consuming, and nagware ridden?

    I realize MP3 is not an open standard, and that the freeware utilities to produce MP3 audio streams are probably not licensed from Thompson, the newer holder to the rights of the mp3 format. But the compatibility across platforms can't be beat.

    I won't use quicktime due to the Windows nagware feature. Once again, content producers PAY for the production tools, the end users should be able to see the end result without paying to get full screen capabilities.

    If only there was a streaming video equivilent to MP3.

  • by metamatic (202216) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @04:08PM (#10182064) Homepage Journal
    Here's my question:

    You claim that Real is all about choice and opennness. However, your license agreements for your SDK outright prohibit using your software to create programs that will decode Real files and transcode them into other formats. Even unprotected Real audio files may not be converted to AIFF or MP3, according to your license. You have threatened legal action against people for doing so, also.

    I know that I, for one, will never purchase files which I am prohibited from transcoding into other formats.

    If you're really about openness and freedom of choice, why don't you let me choose what format I keep my audio files in?

    Currently I have to play back Real audio of radio shows in real time, record the output to AIFF, then re-encode to MP3, so that I can play on my MP3 player. It'd be so much better if I could just go straight from Real audio to MP3.
  • by orangeguru (411012) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @04:36PM (#10182439) Homepage
    My questions would be:

    1. Why did I get for my expensive subscription to the Euro 2004 only crappy video streams?

    2. Why should I care about Real since they have ignored my feature requests and pleas for a better software for years?

    3. Why should I install another media player that wants me to sell only expensive mini clips and radio stations that are mostly for free anyway?

    4. And even when I subscribe to the radio pass, I still get stuttering streams and bad quality - can't you deliver what you promise and charge me for?

    5. Why has Real missed the train to develop and support truely open initiatives like DIVX (in the beginning), XVID or the new BBC format?

    6. Since Real complains about Apple's ignorance I like to complain about Reals lacking support and ignorance for MD-Players and so many other third party devices. Why am I ignored just because I have a not so cool tool?

    7. Why is Real Server software so extremely expensive compared to Apples streaming solution?

    8. Why does every media player have such a fancy interfaces that follow no standards except their own? Can't you comply to the standards of the OS the player is running on?

    9. When will Real admit the failure and stop doing the RealArcade? There are hardly any unique products in there and I can buy most of them without the surrounding Real hype.

    10. How much money has Real left in the bank to survive against Apple and Microsoft?

    That's it.
  • by tarvin (644214) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @05:50PM (#10183224) Homepage

    I worked at a TV station a couple of years ago. At that time, we - like most everyone else - streamed using Real's codecs and formats. Since then, they have completely switched to WMV3 (for Windows Media Player 9+). I don't know the history surrounding the decision to switch, but I can certainly think of many reasons.

    Everyone with just a microgram of brains could see Microsoft coming, leveraging their platform monopoly - BUT also very much helped by the fact that almost everybody hated Real's (client) player-software, and pretty much still do:

    1. 'Ordinary' users were pissed because the software took ownership of too many file types.
    2. 'Ordinary users' were also annoyed because Real's distribution system made every effort to hide the freeware edition. Things seem to have changed a bit for the better during the last month, or so (should have happened years ago), although things are still not acceptable.
    3. Finally, 'ordinary users' were annoyed by the registration procedure, both at the web site, and at the first run of the player. Why such registration? - Angry users often fill out all sorts of garbage in such registration situations, making the received data useless.
    4. Network administrators hated it because it was a pain to get working in mass-installations.
    5. Content providers were ashamed by the fact that they had to instruct their audience to use software surrounded with such a used-car-salesman distribution attitude.
    6. Content provider financial departments were very annoyed by exorbitant streaming server license fees. I heard that this changed somewhat some time ago, though.
    7. The open source community were seriously annoyed by the fact that at some points in time, it was nearly impossible to find - e.g. - a Linux version of the player (the site has changed again and again during the last couple of years). Open source users also had to put up with software which was poorly integrated with important software like the Mozilla browser (a lot of browser-player integration only worked on Windows, as far as I remember). - If they could get the player to run, at all.
    8. People (like me) concerned with the grave aspects of Microsoft on yet another monopoly area sometimes tried to express just a little bit of support for Real: Boss, I think we should try to support several different streams, including Real (and MPEG4IP, WMV, ...). But siding with Real gave a really bad taste, knowing how stupidly Real acted. Eventually, even the partial supporters couldn't resist becoming intense Real-haters.

    This leads me to my question: Why on Earth did you sleep for so long?! You must have seen competition coming; in such a senario: why did you strive so hard to make foes with everyone?

    The Helix project was years over-due (probably too late to make a difference, by now), and your recent (and incomplete) end-user improvements on the web-site were even more over-due.

    Tell me: Exactly what major changes in your organization (such as getting rid of the jerks who stressed a goofy revenue-from-deived-end-users strategy) have your completed that should make me think again about trusting your strategy, products and distribution system? I'm asking because I don't want to waste a second keeping in touch with the development of the Helix projects, unless I'm convinced that your company has turned 180 degrees.

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