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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

RealNetworks Inc will today release the third and final piece of its Helix open-source streaming media system, with which it hopes to become the de facto standard streaming media software provider on the internet,

Kevin Murphy writes

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CEO Rob Glaser is set to make the announcement at the LinuxWorld trade show in New York today. He will also announce that 10,000 developers have signed up to HelixCommunity.org, which one executive said was "astonishing to us."

The Helix DNA Server is the open-source version of Helix Universal Server, RealNetworks six-month-old commercial streaming server. Like player and encoder, it will be made available under commercial and royalty-free licenses.

The commercial license is $500 per CPU, RealNetworks VP of media systems Dan Sheeran said. The commercial Helix Universal Server is priced by the amount of bandwidth served, starting at about $4,000.

Helix DNA developers signing up under the commercial license will also be required to carry support for the RealAudio and RealVideo codecs (available in object code only) in their end products.

"Frankly, this is so we can ensure a wider increase in the amount of products that use our formats," Sheeran said. He added that the software will include support for MP3 streaming, with MPEG-4 support possible in future.

It will not, however, support MPEG-4 at first. RealNetworks is waiting to see what royalties are decided upon by the MPEG Licensing Authority, which has announced terms for players and encoders but not streaming systems.

"It's a licensing issue. The MPEG-LA has not yet published the MPEG-4 systems license. Until they do, we can't offer licenses without incurring some unknown exposure," said Sheeran.

The company is also refusing to be drawn into a price war with Microsoft Corp, which earlier this month published its codec licensing terms, claiming them to be cheaper than competitors including MPEG-4.

RealNetworks' Sheeran said the Microsoft announcement was cleverly spun, and pointed out that licensing codecs for both encoder and decoder works out the same price if you go with RealNetworks or Microsoft ($0.25 per unit). But with RealNetworks you also get the source code to build an application with, he said.

The release of the Helix DNA Server means RealNetworks now has open-source versions of its player, server and encoding tools available to developers under royalty-free or commercial licenses, part of the company's strategy to win over media developers.

"We've had over 10,000 developers join the Helix community," said RealNetworks' Sheeran. "It's astonishing to us. That's more people than we knew were involved in digital media products."

He said that developers are currently mostly working on player projects, for PCs or PDAs and other wireless devices, as well as systems such as home networks and web cams.

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