Street plays rock ‘n’ Real

RealNetworks hits high and low notes

The week has been a rocky one for streaming media leader RealNetworks Inc.

The Seattle-based company rode a roller coaster on Wall Street beginning Monday, when shares skyrocketed after an announcement that it will enter the MP3 Internet music delivery game by inking a deal with IBM and purchasing rival Xing Technology Corp. for $75 million in stock; then shares plummeted Wednesday after Microsoft Corp. trumpeted its own online music player.

Monday, investors embraced Real’s deal to develop security measures for the digital distribution of music on the Web, shooting the company’s stock up in the $240 range. The acquisition of Xing on Tuesday sent the company’s shares up to an all-time high of $263.75 before it fell to close at $229.

Then the stock was hit hard Wednesday, falling $39.50 to close at $189.50, a loss of 17%, the loss attributed to Microsoft’s public announcement Tuesday night of supporters for its Windows Media Technologies 4.0 player, including DreamWorks Records, Hollywood Records, TVT Onradio.com, Amplified.com and ThingWorld.com.

Warner Music on Tuesday said it will begin releasing product on MP3.

Real distributes streaming software that allows audio and video broadcasters to deliver their products over the World Wide Web in real time.

San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Xing develops high-speed digital audio and video encoding and decoding technology which is used to secure MP3 music files.

Although a major player in the Internet world, RealNetworks is overshadowed by behemoth Microsoft in the consumer arena. The Xing deal is expected to help the company entice more record labels and ‘Netcasters to officially jump on board MP3.

RealNetworks distributes its RealSystem G2 via the Internet, enabling Internet users to hear concerts and radio programming or watch video content on their computers. The company’s RealPlayer software is used by more than 30 million people.

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