RealTime IT News

Linux Gets (Real) with Helix Player

RealNetworks' tug-of-war with Microsoft for digital media delivery dominance hit a new gear Wednesday with the launch of the Helix Player project -- an open source media player for the Linux, Unix and Solaris platforms.

The Seattle-based RealNetworks said its proprietary RealAudio and RealVideo binaries would be added to the Helix Player to allow Linux users -- for the first time -- to enjoy digital media playback with full SMIL 2.0 support.

The Helix Player will be built at the company's Helix Community program and will be a collaborative effort. It will be powered by the Helix DNA Client and will offer the same functionalities as the RealOne Player now available for the Windows and Mac platforms.

RealNetworks said the first usable release of the Helix Player is scheduled for next quarter.

Last July, when RealNetworks made the calculated gamble to release parts of its source code to the developer community, open source advocates clamored for the inclusion of the proprietary RealAudio and RealVideo codecs, arguing that the strategy would fall short if RealNetworks didn't fully embrace the open-source community.

While those codecs remain proprietary, the addition of the binaries for the Helix Media Player is getting the thumbs-up from developers and RealNetworks' VP of the Helix Products and Solutions division, Nagesh Pabbisetty, said it was further evidence of the company's commitment to the Linux Platform.

The latest move to create a media player for open source platforms comes as membership in the Helix Community reached 20,000, including both open source and commercial developers, RealNetworks said.

Initial versions of the player will be built for Linux and Solaris following freedesktop.org standards and using the GTK+ toolkit. RealNetworks said the modular architecture of the Helix Player will ensure the code can be ported to any operating system or embedded device.

Separately, RealNetworks announced the availability of the Helix Community Grant Program open to independent developers, academic and research institutions, non-profits and commercial enterprises. The program will provide funding for digital media innovation efforts in the open source arena.

Successful grant applicants will receive funding for digital media research or projects from a pool of $75,000. The company said each successful proposal will be assigned a technical adviser familiar with the Helix platform, to assist in navigating the code and removing technical obstacles.