ZIFFPAGE TITLEHelix and Microsoft

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2003-04-21 Print this article Print

LU: Do you consider the performance and adoption of the Helix Platform a success?
RG: Were thrilled with how its gone. There are a couple of different levels. Theres the Helix open-source community level—whats called the Helix DNA Layer, which is the core layer. We released the final component of that in early January. Concurrently, we announced that there are over 10,000 members of the Helix community taking the source code. Theyre taking it on the open-source license option, or the community source license option. I should mention that theres the open-source license, which is an OSI-certified license. Thats sort of a Linux-type license. And then theres the community license, which is more of a Java-type license. The difference is, if youre going to do a commercial product and you want to not publish the source code of it yourself, you use the community license. If you just want to do a hobbyist type of thing or research thing—where you dont mind contributing the source-code back to the community—you can use the open-source license.
It takes time but were starting to see some very interesting projects coming out. The first wave of them represent support for a range of non-PC devices that we probably would not have gotten to if we had tried to do it ourselves just with our partners. Its really accelerating the work there. I think the next phase of integration is with various kinds of appliance hardware. Thatll start coming in the months ahead. The nature of open-source is "stuff we never thought of."
In terms of the Helix Universal Server, its a commercial product that RealNetworks sells on top of the Helix DNA line. After a year, its still the only product that streams all the major formats. So whenever we go into a new account, they say, "This is pretty amazing, you have one platform I can standardize on. I can run it on Linux, I can run it on Solaris, I can run it on a Windows NT or XP backend. I can run it on all these backend platforms. I have one solution that I can build my network around. Thats pretty remarkable." So anywhere people are building out new networks, with the mobile market being a great example, the rate at which were getting design wins from the Helix Universal server is fantastic. It was quite a monumental—I hope that wouldnt be too hyperbolic a word—engineering effort to pull together. Were seeing usage of it in traditional content-delivery networks as well as on the PC. Our own broadcast network uses it very regularly and gets excellent performance out of it on all the networks it supports. Weve announced previously that we licensed to Yahoo! and AOL. Theyre using it in their broadcasts. This is a change-the-rules kind of product. Instead of—in step with my previous comments—just having it be [a strictly vertical solution], we decided about a year ago to embrace open standards. A year in, were really seeing the real benefits of that. LU: Regarding Microsoft Windows and Windows Media 9 Series—at this point, thinking of them as separate entities is difficult. Real runs on devices that dont have the same operating system. Its hard to think of a non-Windows device that runs Windows Media Player.
RG: They do have a version running on the Mac, to be fair to them. Its an older version, and it doesnt have all the features. Thats kind of telling, right? Their focus is on pushing the Windows agenda, and thats what they do. LU: It sounds like youre conceding that Microsoft is making a big effort. Do you think they are playing any anticompetitive games?
RG: They may well be playing anticompetitive games. I dont want to suggest that theyve learned their lesson. This is a company that was and illegally using that monopoly. Because of the exigencies of the way our political system works, they escaped with at best a very, very mild level of chastising relative to the breakup that was on the table, for Petes sake. So I dont see them as having turned over a new leaf in terms of behaving ethically or honorably. I just think that from our standpoint, our focus is on building the best business we can, and we never made any assumptions about the public policy process changing. We always assumed that wed have to compete in the marketplace and if someone was breaking the rules, we had to compete anyway. Thats our philosophy. That approach is how we look at the parts of the market where the dynamics play out clearly to our advantage, like the Nokias and the Palms and the Sony PlayStations of the world. I think those represent a large part of where the future opportunity is going to be. In Windows XP Microsoft has rigged a lot of booby-trap ways where the consumer gets Windows Media Player whether he or she asks for it or not. Our view is that we deliver excellent products on top of Windows XP, so lets make sure we deliver a super-high-quality experience. By the way, since I know Im talking to you guys, you guys named our product Editors Choice. So you certainly didnt get confused on the question of "Hey, just because something comes with the operating system, is it the only choice?" You recognized the whole issue. The reality is, we focus on the broadest market opportunity, which is all these devices Ive mentioned, and we focus on delivering world-class solutions on the PC. With the RealOne player on the PC in either the free version or the premium version, were committed to having them be the best-of-breed products on the market. Thats going to continue to be our strategy. LU: Is it true that users still generally download short-duration material?
RG: For the den or for the places where people use the PC, some people want a PC to run a background application where they might have Internet radio on for a period of time. Some people are doing many things at once. Theyre multitasking. It is our experience that people watch a single long-form thing as a primary task. Radio stations have longer listening times because you just have it on in the background and when you get a phone call, you turn the volume down. Some people like that continuous background experience.

Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched AskDrPC.com, and KidRaves.com and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, Winmag.com won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join Deja.com as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched PCMag.com in July 2001. The new PCMag.com was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, PCMag.com regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and PCMag.com, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for PCMag.com and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New YorkÔÇÖs Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNewsÔÇÖ Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media WireÔÇÖs Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC MagazineÔÇÖs weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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