"Mastering Compression" class

My friend and streaming expert Ben Waggoner will be holding his next two 5-day Mastering Compression classes on June 30 and August 11.

These classes are held on the Stanford University campus. They’re part of Stanford’s Digital Media Academy program, so you get Stanford Continuing Education credits for taking the class — that means that your employer might even pay for them!

If you can’t attend,

  • Digital Media Academy: Mastering Compression
  • Posted in MPEG-4, QuickTime, RealSystem, Streaming, Windows Media, Wireless
  • RealNetworks drops authoring support for Mac OS X

    Most people don’t realize that a significant consequence of the Helix DNA platform is that RealNetworks has curtailed authoring support for non-Windows platforms. Most significantly, RealNetworks will no longer be providing authoring solutions for Mac OS X, the world’s second-most-popular OS.

    Instead, RealNetworks intends to release a RealSystem 9 SDK for Mac OS X through the Helix community process before Q2’03. (It’s “Helix community” rather than “open-source community” because the most important bits of Helix remain closed-source.) This means that Mac OS X applications that use this SDK should be available in late 2003 or early 2004. Of course, that will be right around the time that new versions of the QuickTime, RealSystem and Windows Media are introduced, making RealNetworks’ half-hearted attempts at Mac OS X support almost pointless.

    RealNetworks has also completely shut down its authoring efforts on Solaris, and strongly cut their support for Linux (where they’ve at least done a command-line encoder).

    Can RealNetworks afford to drop support for popular platforms where Windows Media doesn’t dominate? No, but RealNetworks apparently no longer has the resources to fight the war on more than one front, and so they find themselves in a full retreat to Windows. Now that should be safe place for the final battle for the desktop…

    [This story was modified on 12/19 to reflect that RealNetworks will be contributing to the Helix community Mac OS X SDK effort, which is not how I understood their it even after attempting to confirm their intent. My apologies for misinterpreting RealNetworks’ statements. — CW]

    Final release of RealOne Player for Mac OS X now available

    The “gold” (looks more like plastic, actually) release of RealOne Player for Mac OS X is now available.

    First, “order” the free player by avoiding all of the obvious buttons and clicking the small link in the upper-right corner of the page. Once you’ve done that, you’ll need to either (1) register, (2) give them your registered email address and password, or (3) re-register because you rarely visit the site and have no idea which combination of email addresses and passwords you might’ve used. The first time you launch RealOne Player it will ask you if it can be the default player for various file types and protocols, and I recommend unchecking those. | RealOne Player for Mac OS X

    Helix Producer source code released

    RealNetworks has released the source code to Helix Producer, its encoding tool. Note that although Helix Producer has been open-sourced, it is not free, and some of the most critical pieces of the RealSystem platform (such as codecs) have not been open-sourced.

    Because RealNetworks had abandoned all platforms except Windows with their most recent Helix Producer release, this move is seen by critics as a way for RealNetworks to get the Mac and Linux communities to paint their fence for them. Will it work? Will it in any way affect whether RealNetworks will matter in the future? Time will tell. | RealNetworks’ “Helix Community” site | Launch announcement (RealSystem SMIL) | Technical overview (RealSystem SMIL)

    Movielink to support RealSystem and Windows Media, not MPEG-4

    Movielink has announced that it will use both RealSystem and Windows Media for it’s upcoming video-on-demand services.

    “We wanted as low a hurdle as possible for consumers to be able to get movies through the most widely distributed players, Microsoft and RealNetworks, and the most secure digital rights management technologies,” Ramos said.

    Note that they’re not supporting MPEG-4, probably because no mainstream MPEG-4 player supports DRM. I don’t interpret this as Movielink “turning their back on Apple” (as the author dramatically suggests), but it illustrates that Apple’s non-stance on DRM has a downside for its customers as well.

    Movielink is backed by MGM, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. Interestingly, this means that this deal effectively starves RealNetworks’ content services of movie content. Unless, of course, RealNetworks is giving them everything for free in order to get content for its own service. Hrmmm…

    RealNetworks releases open-source client

    Last night, RealNetworks announced to Helix Community members that its Helix DNA Client source code is available to registered users.

    The jury is still out on whether RealNetworks’ open source are going to make a difference. The Helix mailing lists have been dead quiet, suggesting massive disinterest. The RealNetworks licenses don’t help — for example, anyone who uses the software for anything but research purposes can expect to be hit with licensing fees. If there’s a strategy (other than hoping developers are compelled to add value to the RealSystem platform out of the goodness of their hearts), it’s not apparent to me. Is it to anyone? Link

    UPDATE&nbsp&nbsp&nbspI tuned into the webcast, hoping to get an insight into RealNetworks’ strategy. Rob Glaser said that 2,000 developers had joined “Helix Community”, and claimed that that was really good. Well, this little site has around 2,000 regular readers, and that’s with basically no marketing efforts thus far. I’m thinking, “They can’t do better?”

    Rob then trotted out pre-recorded clips featuring VIPs from Nokia and Palm Source. The Nokia VIP could’ve been talking about Windows Media or MPEG-4 — he didn’t say anything specific to RealSystem or RealNetworks. The Palm Source VIP read (poorly) from an off-screen card, and strongly encouraged Palm OS developers to, erm, do something with Helix DNA Client for Palm OS.

    There may have been more, but just as an OpenWave VIP started to talk my RealOne Player crashed spectacularly, and by the time I was able to fire it up on a different PC they were already into the part of the webcast that told developers how to compile the code. Is a webcast really the best way to tell developers how to compile Helix DNA Client?

    As I signed off, RealOne Player alerted me that an upgrade was available. Nice touch, at least until I figured out that “upgrade” actually meant “upgrade to the non-free player”. Sheesh.

    RealNetworks' server business eroding rapidly

    Today RealNetworks announced their financials. Compared to the same quarter a year ago, (1) revenue is flat, (2) software license fees fell over 40%, (3) their net loss has nearly doubled.

    On the bright side, consumer revenue increased 76%.

    Can RealNetworks survive until they’re forced to abandon their per-server, per-stream revenue model in order to compete with Windows Media Server, which is part and parcel of Windows 2000/.NET Server, and Darwin Streaming Server, which is to MPEG-4 what Apache is to the web? Watch this space… Link

    "RealVideo 9 Clearly Better Than Windows Media 9", says RealNetworks

    RealNetworks recently announced new, independent* third party test results in which consumers preferred RealVideo 9 over Windows Media 9 by a ratio of 4:1. Note that in the press release, RealNetworks marketing people meant to say Windows Media Video 9, and not some other video codec supported by Windows Media 9.

    (*Yes, RealNetworks paid the testing facility. Yes, the graphs are sooo in RealNetworks favor to the point that it’s difficult to take them seriously.) Link