Web site offers free streaming software

In a big step forward, RealNetworks will today launch the Real Entertainment Center, a suite of software that will provide users free, all-in-one streaming download capabilities for both audio and video content.

Company recently signed several content deals with companies like Liquid Audio and Listen.com. In tandem with this software package, Real can provide a comprehensive array of digital music and video downloads.

“With the introduction of the Real Entertainment Center, we are providing consumers with the greatest degree of choice, content and flexibility in Internet and digital media delivery and management,” said Tom Frank, chief operating officer. “Our commitment to enabling people to have a rich media experience is embodied in the high quality, integrated Real Entertainment Center — and it’s why we continue to extend our industry leading position.”

The software, which can be downloaded for free from Real’s Web site, includes Real Player 8, which provides streaming audio technology and Real Jukebox 2, the company’s second-generation music player. Versions of these applications with juiced-up capabilities will be available for download for $30.

Even with these new versions, the stalls that occur with streaming technology, known as “buffering,” will still occur. Execs said that buffering will only be conquered as high-bandwidth Internet connections gain popularity.

Seattle-based RealNetworks was founded in 1994. The company estimates that RealPlayer has 125 million unique registered users. On Friday, the company’s stock closed at $35.38, down $1 in the day’s trading.

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