Getting Real with Apple

RealNetworks Chairman/CEO Rob Glaser waited until the end of his keynote speech at last week's Streaming Media East to mention his company's new alliance with Apple Computer.

It was an understated way of unveiling a link between the streaming technologies of the respective companies. The latest iteration of RealNetworks' streaming software, RealServer 8, now supports delivery of QuickTime-based content to Apple's QuickTime players.

There are potentially significant implications in the two companies cooperating against a common competitor: Microsoft and its Windows Media streaming format. RealNetworks claims the lion's share of the market with 125 million users. But Apple claims 50 million users for QuickTime.

Glaser called the deal an "important step forward" in response to questions, but declined to say whether the deal prefigured further cooperation in the future. "It is what it is," he said.

For Apple, it opens another avenue of possibilities to keep QuickTime a vital part of the streaming landscape since, historically, so much content has been developed in the format.

"We want QuickTime everywhere," a beaming Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, told the audience at the conference via remote West Coast video feed.

Macintosh-heads cheered when Jobs appeared on a large screen. That led to fairly constant laughter as the two CEOs shared a split screen that kept shifting, obscuring one or the other's face.

It was one of several technical glitches that provided an ironic counterpoint to a presentation by Glaser that was heavier on demonstration than hard information. A recurrent audio glitch somewhere between a honk and heavy static prompted Chairman and CEO Lou Dobbs to ask, "Is that you or me?" when he shared the stage with Glaser.

Dobbs was there to tout's "Space Program" of science news and entertainment as the site is added to Real's RealChannels. New and entertainment site, radio talk show site and comedy site are also now part of RealChannels' growing lineup, as RealNetworks continues to double as a streaming technology company and a content aggregator.

RealNetworks showed flashy movie trailers from Gladiator, X-Men and Gone in 60 Seconds, almost all out of focus, as an annoyed Glaser noted. But he remained upbeat throughout, claiming 85% of all streaming content now originates in RealVideo and waving the banner for broadband video. "There's no question that the economics of broadband are coming into focus," he said.