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Microsoft licenses media player to RealNetworks

Not a reformed Redmond, just using different tactics

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Spin was well to the fore when Microsoft announced it had licensed its Windows Media Player technology, free of charge, to its rival RealNetworks, but although Microsoft itself is trying to present the move positively, it's arguably more of a surrender than a victory. Despite what RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser was claiming last year as Microsoft's determined efforts to break it, RealNetwork's RealPlayer is the industry leader. If you don't count MP3, that is. At an unfortunate time in the antitrust spat (but is there ever a fortunate one?) Glaser accused Microsoft of breaking his software, unfairly channeling users to its own software, and trying to do shady, behind the scenes deals. The usual stuff, basically, and it's a testimony to Rob's lack of diplomatic and tactical skills that his complaints were so inexpertly presented that they bounced off. Whatever, now RealNetworks has the Media Player licence it will be able to have its player deal with Microsoft's format as well as the others it can handle, whereas Microsoft's player does not at the moment handle RealPlayer format. This is not necessarily positive for Microsoft, unless it's winning the format wars. The company has cited Media Metrix stats indicating that Windows Media Player was the most widely-used multimedia player in US households in December, but this is of course not the same as saying Microsoft's format was the most widely-used. And that's the crux of the matter. It's the format and associated deals with media companies that are important to Microsoft, and under the circumstances it probably isn't smart to use the usual (allegedly...) methods to leverage it into the market. And in this context you could maybe view Glaser's loud whistle-blowing as a smart move after all. So leverage the format itself instead, and make life easier for yourself by making it possible for RealNetworks to handle it? It's maybe good anti-antitrust propaganda too, albeit a little late. But there's still that MP3 problem... ®

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