RealConfusion: Video Upgrade, Baffling Branding

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Date: Wednesday, April 24th, 2002, 14:32
Category: Archive

RealNetworks today introduced the RealVideo 9 format. The enhancements are impressive: multichannel audio with support for different digital surround codecs, and improved “30%” improved “quality” (there’s some marketingspeak for you), supposedly the same quality as MPEG-4 at half the bitrate. OS X would presumably make a perfect companion to multichannel capabilities in RealVideo 9, since it has exclusive built-in native multichannel support. But don’t think this means a new player for the Mac, or long-awaited OS X compatibility: there’s absolutely no word on an OS X player, although MacNN reports a UNIX version of RealOne is due soon. (Real supports FreeBSD.) In fact, while the format has changed to RealVideo 9, the player on the Mac that supports the new format is still called RealPlayer 8. Autoupdater will enable version 8 with the ability to playback RealVideo 9 files.

Confused? It gets worse. Real’s branding is getting a little out of control. There’s RealNetworks (the content?), RealSystem (the “platform” says Real), RealVideo (the format?) at version 9, RealSystem Server and Proxy (at version 8), RealSystem Producer (at version 9), and Media Commerce Suite. Surround sound is a feature of RealVideo 9 — but it’s called RealAudio Surround. “RealAudio” with ATRAC3 (from Sony) replaces “RealAudio G2”, the previous version, while RealVideo 9 replaces RealVideo 8 which came afte RealVideo G2. And best of all, try to keep straight the difference between RealPlayer (the only option on the Mac) and RealOne Player (the premium player on the PC), not to be confused with RealOne Player Enterprise. Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable” doesn’t quite seem the appropriate theme song for this technology’s branding. Navigating the website just to download a player, always a challenge with Real, is now harder than ever. Apple deserves some real kudos for keeping things simple with the QuickTime media platform.

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