New RealPlayer Simplifies Web Video Downloads

Video content is exploding on the Web, but accessing and storing that content can be a pain. Enter RealNetworks , which said the latest version of its RealPlayer software, available next month, greatly simplifies finding, storing and sharing video content.

The free RealPlayer supports major video formats, Windows Media, Flash, Quicktime and Real’s own Real format. Downloading is as simple as clicking on the “download this video” button the RealPlayer will “float” next to a video window. Videos can also be burned to a CD. The $29.95 RealPlayer Plus version allows storing to DVD.

Other features of the free version include a streamlined installation process and faster video playback. The software also helps users share videos by a “Share with a Friend” feature that sends an e-mail link of the video content.

“Time-shifting of recorded or downloaded content is a natural next step in the progression of the online video distribution and consumption,” said Michael McGuire, vice president at Gartner. “For online video fans, the ability to capture, store and forward content is going to be transformative.”

The new RealPlayer was previewed at the Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital conference Thursday.

“Think of it as like Tivo for the Web,” Ben Rotholtz, general manager for Web services and syndication at Real, told “Unlike others, we’re universal in our approach, supporting content in multiple formats. Consumers shouldn’t have to care or even know what format they’re watching a video in; they just want to experience the content.”

Real is also partnering with Blinx to provide video search capability from within the player.

Rotholtz described the new player as a significant upgrade Real has been working on for close to two years. With Real now focusing its music efforts on its Rhapsody digital music service, the new RealPlayer is being positioned as Real’s video platform.

“There’s been an explosion of video content over past three years, but also issues that are distinct from music,” said Rotholtz. “When you find video content today, you feel compelled to watch the whole thing then and there no matter what you’re doing because you don’t know if it’ll be there tomorrow.”

With Real’s new one-button save capability, Rotholtz said consumers will be able to have a more “lean back” or TV-like experience of being able to enjoy videos at their leisure.

At the D conference, Real demonstrated saving video to an iPod video player. Although that capability won’t be available in next month’s release, Rotholtz said Real plans to offer the ability to save video to portable devices, including the iPod, later this year.

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