RealTime IT News

Is AOL, Microsoft Bundling Bad News for RealNetworks?

AOL and Microsoft may be in the process of burying the hatchet, and the loser may be RealNetworks, according to a report by BetaNews.

AOL Time Warner's AOL client has long had a home bundled with Microsoft's Windows OS. But the original agreement ended Jan. 1, 2001, and the two companies failed to reach a compromise that would extend the agreement. Now BetaNews reported Friday that AOL representatives were invited to Redmond for a three-week integration session at the end of May -- a session which should lead to the inclusion of Steppenwolf, the XP-compatible version of AOL 6.0, in the October release of Windows XP.

Steppenwolf is reportedly the same as AOL's current 6.0 release, but must meet strict XP requirements for compatibility and size. BetaNews reported that AOL requested about 84MB of CD space for its various client languages, while Microsoft only has 70MB available. The two companies are reportedly exploring ways of reducing the size, including use of a single installer for various languages and removal of components such as the RealPlayer.

RealNetworks just recently launched MusicNet as a joint venture with AOL Time Warner, and the two companies have an exclusivity contract. But the relationship between the two companies has not been rosy, according to reports. RealNetworks recently refused an AOL request to slim down the RealPlayer software.

The exclusivity contract between RealNetworks and AOL ends mid-July and AOL is likely to integrate Windows Media Player with Steppenwolf by May 31. According to BetaNews, Windows Media Player will initially launch only for Windows Media formats but AOL is considering the implications of an exclusive contract with Microsoft.

However, AOL and Microsoft still have issues to iron out. First, AOL has failed to meet Logo requirements and WHQL certification for Windows XP, according to BetaNews. AOL officials will reportedly take another jaunt to Redmond to cross those t's and dot those i's.

On AOL's end, the company is somewhat dismayed by Microsoft's new OEM policy, which outlaws the use of desktop icons.