Red Hat, Novell back Real Linux player

With no iTunes, what else?

Real Networks has persuaded Red Hat and Novell to bundle its open source Helix Player ahead of the release of a Linux version of its partially open source Real Player 10 later this summer, the companies said today.

Helix Player itself will soon - within 30 days - be placed under the GPL, Real said. However, it will continue to offer the player under its own Public Source Licence and its Community Source Licence, together allowing various quantities of proprietary technology to be shipped with the core code. The latter covers Real's own audio and video codecs.

Today's deals follow similar partnerships Real has recently struck with Sun and Turbolinux. Real's popularity on Windows and Mac desktops is waning, not least because of its attempt to set itself up not only as a technology source but a provider of content too, a move that industry sources claim has helped alienate other content companies from backing its technology.

And Real's 'pesterware' attempts to persuade users to upgrade from the free version of Real Player required to view material from some major sites to the premium content release hasn't exactly endeared the company to ordinary users, either.

It hopes for better fortune in the Linux world, which has been effectively ignored by Real's two main rivals, Apple and Microsoft. There may be plenty of Linux users who are willing to pay for premium content, but whether there are enough to justify Real's enthusiasm remains to be seen.

Doubly so as more and more content is made available in Windows Media or Apple's DRM, for which Real has so for proved unable to support for licensing reasons. Real CEO Rob Glaser attempted to persuade Apple to license its FairPlay DRM technology, but Steve Jobs proved resistant to the temptation. That limits Real Player's value as the universal media client its developer is keen to promote it as.

Meanwhile, Real also said today it would ship Real Player 10 for Mac OS X on 30 June - or at least a beta version of the software. ®

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