RealNetworks clinches Nokia mobile phone player deal

Handsets by the million

ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

RealNetworks Inc made its most significant play in the wireless internet market yesterday, announcing a deal with Nokia Corp that will see its media software bundled on millions of mobile devices,

writes Kevin Murphy.

Not only will Nokia include a cut-down RealOne player on the forthcoming 9210i, 9290 and 7650 models, but also in its Series 60 Symbian-based application platform. Potential Series 60 licensees include Matsushita, Ericsson and Sony.

The deal is not exclusive, though RealNetworks' chief competitor, Microsoft Corp, does not have plans for Windows Media Player on the Symbian operating system used in Nokias. The 9290 will be made available in the Americas and the 9210i in the rest of the world, in the second quarter. The 7650 comes out later this year.

Though the precise length of the contract was not revealed, RealNetworks' general manager of mobile products Ian Freed said it goes "substantially beyond" the two years it will take mobile video to become practical and popular.

RealNetworks and Nokia have been working together for almost two years. The best-selling Nokia 9210 already includes RealPlayer. The latest deal, however, also includes Nokia endorsing RealNetworks recently announced back- end software.

According to Freed, Nokia will resell RealSystem Mobile, a range of streaming servers and proxy caches, to its wireless carrier customers. Nokia sells into over 300 networks worldwide, so RealNetworks is understandably chuffed about this.

A longer-term part of the deal will see the two companies pool their resources to develop enhancements to the system. Early versions of RealOne Mobile will not support 3GPP (Third Generation Partnership Program) standards such as MPEG-4, and will not have any kind of digital rights management capability.

Freed said this is because of the "substantially smaller footprint" RealNetworks has to deal with in mobile devices. "We're probably going to try to make the DRM solution smaller," he said. "We could use some of the features of mobile devices that are not in PCs, to make it smaller... [such as] the unique billing relationship a user has."

The current RealOne Mobile plays back RealVideo and RealAudio and doesn't do much else. The RealOne subscription content service will not be available for wireless devices. Freed said that the company is working on an SMS-based service that could alert users to breaking sports news, for example, so users could tune into audio reports when alerted.

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