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Intel buys RealNetworks patents for streaming push

Intel buys RealNetworks patents for streaming push

Intel's investment gives RealNetworks a significant cash boost, and telegraphs the chip giant's hopes for a consumer electronics win.

Intel appears to be spending money like it's going out of fashion: having hit a record high of $12.9 billion in profit and splashing $125 million in excess cash on InfiniBand networking know-how from QLogic, it's now throwing $120 million at RealNetworks.

For its cash injection, Intel is to receive 190 patents and 170 pending patents held by RealNetworks around media streaming technologies, along with the rights to software for highly efficient compression and decompression of video and audio streams.

RealNetworks will be known to many as one of the pioneers of the streaming media space: founded in 1995 as Progressive Networks, the company's RealPlayer software was a staple of the 90s browsing experience with around 85 per cent of all streaming media content on the web using the company's technology by 2000.

Sadly, that rise was followed by a fall: the company's entire revenue stream was predicated on the sales of server-side streaming technologies, and as competitors like Adobe began to undercut its prices and Microsoft gave away similar software for free, sales dwindled.

Since then, the company has attempted several times to reinvent itself: in 2003, it acquired the Rhapsody streaming music service before spinning it off again as a separate company in 2010; in 2004 it launched a music download service powered by its homebrew digital rights management technology Helix, but when support for the DRM in devices failed to appear courted controversy with a DRM wrapper scheme dubbed Harmony that allowed its audio to play on iPod and WMA-compatible devices.

More recently, the company launched a DVD ripping package dubbed RealDVD; sadly, a court decided that the software was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and its sale was barred. In 2010, things had got tough enough that the company announced plans to hire out sections of its headquarters in order to raise additional income.

What we're trying to say here is this: Intel's cash will come as a welcome boost to a company which has seen its stock price drop by 38 per cent in the last year.

It also telegraphs Intel's intentions in the consumer space: despite the somewhat slow adoption of its Atom Consumer Edition (CE) chips, designed for use in set-top boxes, the company is clearly hoping to steal some of the embedded market from rivals like ARM and MIPS, and RealNetworks' streaming know-how is going to be a big part of that plan.

RealNetworks, for its part, will be granted a licence to use the patented technologies in all current and future products, and will work closely with Intel on the continued development of the software.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal regarding the news, RealNetworks chief executive Thomas Nielsen claimed: 'To bring new technology like that to market requires significant reach into the consumer and business markets. A partner like Intel has the capacity and size to do that.'

Care to hazard a guess about where Intel will splash its spare millions next? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

14 Comments

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B1GBUD 27th January 2012, 18:12 Quote
Does anyone still use RealPlayer anymore? I only used it to stream Radio 1 back in the day.... it's not been on any of my machines for a few years.
Tattysnuc 27th January 2012, 18:18 Quote
Wonder if this purchase is linked to Intel's push into mobile computing somehow..... There's got to be something in those patents that they hold... surely.
Almightyrastus 27th January 2012, 19:21 Quote
Oh god, just let it die, please let it go.
technogiant 27th January 2012, 20:22 Quote
Fizzban 27th January 2012, 20:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by B1GBUD
Does anyone still use RealPlayer anymore? I only used it to stream Radio 1 back in the day.... it's not been on any of my machines for a few years.

I've not used it in years. I use Winamp for music these days. Tend to use Zoom Player MAX for videos.
IvanIvanovich 27th January 2012, 20:56 Quote
Ahhh... memories of BUFFERING every 2 seconds. I can't remember the last time I saw Real probably at least a decade.
TheKrumpet 28th January 2012, 02:09 Quote
Somehow I doubt they're bringing back RealPlayer. They want it for the technologies to implement in their own products. Personally I think this is a game of 'wait and see'.
leexgx 28th January 2012, 12:28 Quote
only users who use real player is china (they seem to Love the real player format for some reason {cartoons like bayblade, pokimon so on :) })
azrael- 28th January 2012, 21:54 Quote
If memory doesn't fail me there was a big controversy about spyware in RealPlayer some years back. To the extent that most people stopped using it. I believe RealNetworks eventually removed the offending code, but RealPlayer never retained its status after that.
fluxtatic 29th January 2012, 02:14 Quote
Real was only popular because it was the only game in town way back. Anyone who was paying attention ditched it as soon as something else came along. It became the AOL of streaming audio - only used by people who didn't know any better.

azrael's right, too; there was some spyware scandal a few years back. Honestly, I'm surprised RealNetworks is still around as a company.
B1GBUD 29th January 2012, 10:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic

azrael's right, too; there was some spyware scandal a few years back. Honestly, I'm surprised RealNetworks is still around as a company.

Now I remember why a rebuild was necessary to remove it completely, it was loaded with spyware and badware!
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RealPlayer
Nexxo 29th January 2012, 12:34 Quote
And bloat ware. RealPlayer jut had this behemoth of a front end that kept nagging you with messages and adverts. Of course, geeks used RealAlternative: all of the codec, none of the surrounding bloat ware.
Anfield 29th January 2012, 19:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by fluxtatic
Real was only popular because it was the only game in town way back. Anyone who was paying attention ditched it as soon as something else came along. It became the AOL of streaming audio - only used by people who didn't know any better.

And due to having been the first one they hold lots of valuable patents.
Essentially Intel is just lowering its royalty expenses in the future with a one off payment.
SchizoFrog 30th January 2012, 08:10 Quote
I use it still but for only one feature. That if ripping/downloading video files that seem otherwise unavailable. It's a nice feature for use with Youtube, although I am sure other software can do the same job but Real does it fine for me and I am just used to it.
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