Real screen

RealNetworks: They’re Still Here

Real screenA lot of new consumer apps that present a big variety are the work of developers fresh out of Stanford or MIT. And then there’s Ron Glaser (by the way, from Yale).

Glaser’s RealNetworks has been involved in computers and lately mobile devices, used to receive and send video. It has succeeded while many other companies have failed, and it has managed to come up with ideas.

It’s most recent effort has been RealTime, designed to generate a program with photos, videos, and music on a phone, tablet, or PC and play it to any of these or to other viewers, such a Roku. It’s a good offer, but it fits in with a lot of other related competitors.

Glaser is one of those guys involved in this sort of effort for a long time. He was at Microsoft in charge of program efforts back in the day before the Windows 95 release. He left for RealNetworks to start the PC video business. He has had an active role with the company except for a departure of about two years early in the current decade.

Flash GordonMany of you may not remember the early days of what computer video was like. People had to get their signal on dial up phone systems–and with not very fast modems. The computers themselves were slow and the displays not very good–single color monitors were not that rare, especially in offices. Video was bad too.

The result was an image on the screen not much bigger than a postage stamp. Despite the small size, the video was not that great in quality. And the image would freeze as the signal dropped.

But bit by bit, videos became more important. Video, bigger and better, became key elements of ads, movies, and everything else. In time, devices became places to see shows and events, both on PCs and eventually phones too (and not necessarily the smart kind).

RealNetwork has long since fallen out of leadership in video as so many other have jumped in. In 2011, the company released a product called Unifi that allowed you to link media and other information over many devices in the cloud. It was an an appealing project (I was involved in project advising) but RealNetwork was beaten by others who got there first.

The company is still working with an assortment of projects, including video services, games distribution, and the Rhapsody music service.

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Steve Wildstrom

Steve Wildstrom is veteran technology reporter, writer, and analyst based in the Washington, D.C. area. He created and wrote BusinessWeek’s Technology & You column for 15 years. Since leaving BusinessWeek in the fall of 2009, he has written his own blog, Wildstrom on Tech and has contributed to corporate blogs, including those of Cisco and AMD and also consults for major technology companies.

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