Real Player 10: Evil or Not?


I can't figure out what to think about Real. Are these guys evil or not? Their marketing for the past several years or so has been evil as it gets: bait-and-switch downloads, no way to cancel accounts online (I had to make an expensive international call to cancel Real One a few years go, the bastards), pop-ups, secretly-installed agents, etc. I mean, just above Gator in my mind has been Real Media - some real scumbags in that marketing department.

Yet, they are also the only real competitor to Microsoft's streaming media solution, aren't they? Quicktime and MP3 streaming aren't really on the map here (sadly). They also supply the playback for my beloved Series 60 devices, which is awesome. And they're getting on more and more handsets every day: They just signed a deal with Qualcomm to get burned into ROM on upcoming CDMA chips. Rock! And hey, all their software (except the codecs) is available as open source software via the Helix project. Urgh! This is all good! I'm completely torn!

Happily today I noticed in a Slashdot post that CarTalk had switched back to Real after a massive Mea Culpa from the company. It seems that Real has toned down their heavy-handed marketing tactics that caused a lot of problems not only for me, but tons of normal end-users as well. (I hope they fired the bastards in their marketing department, actually). After reading this, I decided to grab the latest version of Real's player and low-and-behold it now has 3GP support! Cool! This is great news, as this will allow videos to be taken from mobile phones to be played by anyone now with a simple upgrade (Real is much more popular than Quicktime - so it's a real boon for the market), and since Real supports Linux, the guys at work should be able to view videos I've recorded as well. Nice!

But check it out! Funnily enough, in addition to 3GP support, Real has added TiVo-like cacheing to the new player as well! I was listening to KQED at work today, and I paused the station while I did something else, and when I came back and hit play, I expected Real to re-buffer as normal and grab the latest from the stream. But nope, it had been cacheing the stream the entire time and I was able to go back and forth through the recorded audio and didn't miss a thing. VERY COOL.

So, it looks like I'm going to give Real another chance since they at least seem to trying to do the right thing and have some really decent technology. I'm not nearly so forgiving usually, but they seem to get mobile media and are not Microsoft, so more power to them, right? Let's cross our fingers they don't fuck it up this time.



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