IBM, Real Networks Join to Deliver Digital Media

The companies are combining their software and services to make it easier for companies to offer digital audio and video to consumers.

IBM and Real Networks Inc. on Friday joined hands to help enterprises build and deliver on-demand digital audio and video services.

The two companies, in an announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, said they will launch an offering in the first half of this year that combines Real Networks Real 10 digital media platform with IBMs content management, e-commerce and integration software.

Their goal is to provide an alternative to the now-common practice of building custom software and services for the distribution and sale of digital media to consumers. The integrated technology should help businesses wanting to deploy such digital media services as Internet-delivered television shows, mobile music or in-car digital music, the duo said.

On stage together during CES on Friday, Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser and Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive at IBMs software group, said that by working together the companies are able to fill in each others gaps for delivering digital media services.

Glaser said Real Networks wanted to provide a turnkey solution so that companies could build out digital media services using Real Networks SDK, but that it lacked a services organization.

"We said, Can we cement a partnership to move this further? And we were thrilled that our No. 1 partner felt this way about us," Glaser said.

At IBM, Mills said: "There were various business models we were experimenting with … for rich media execution." But IBM found it needed a comprehensive set of digital media infrastructure elements to make them successful, something Real Networks provided, he said.

The partnership also will be pitting the companies against rival Microsoft Corp., which is also the target of an antitrust lawsuit filed last month by Real Networks. Microsoft in December had partnered with Loudeye Corp. to create a service for companies wanting to quickly launch online music stores.

Real Networks, of Seattle, brings to the joint offering its RealPlayer 10 and Real 10 audio and video formats as well as its Helix digital rights management system and Helix Universal Server. IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will contribute its WebSphere Digital Media Enabler, WebSphere Commerce and DB2 Content Manager software. Customers will be able to install the joint platform in-house or as a hosted system, the two companies said.

The joint product also will provide open APIs (application programming interfaces) so developers can tie third-party applications for such functions as customer support, subscription management and security into their digital media services.