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Just A Thought
by Vern Seward

Are They For Real?
April 26th, 2004

I've loathed Real Player for as long as the company that makes it has existed. It's been a fact of life for me: The Sun shines, time marches on, Denice, the pretty little girl with pigtails, glasses, and a smile that could melt an iceberg, who sat in the seat in front of me in the first grade, still thinks I'm a stalker/geek, and I really dislike Real Player.

The reason for my animosity towards Real Player has nothing to do with the fact that it is a competing product to QuickTime -- I like competition -- and if I didn't detest Real Player so much I'd have kept it installed on my Cube and on my PC at work. No, I dislike Real Player for the same reason I dislike slimy used car salesmen, pushy phone salesmen, PC snobs, and religious zealots (which are indistinguishable in my book): Real Player is obnoxious.

You ever try to download one of their "free" players? What a pain in the posterior! You've gotta wade through ads thicker than chilled molasses just to get to the download page. And may the good Lord help you if you mistakenly click on an ad.

The pain doesn't end there; once you download the player, there are still more pop-up ads begging you to get the 'Pro' version. Then, to add insult to injury; once you bring up the player, the movie is often surrounded by still more ads. And where does Real get off making the close button so small? I tell ya, they are evil, far worse that Big Redmond on its worst day.

If you've paid any attention to the news lately, you'd know that Real's CEO, Rob Glaser, is looking for a partner, and that he sent Apple a rather cheeky note asking Steve Jobs if he'd like to team up against The Gates Gang.

Although Apple kicked Mr. Glaser's proposal to the curb, perhaps this is a sign that Real has come to its senses.

The company has come out with a new player that it claims is not nearly as obnoxious as previous efforts. Not only did the company drop the loud plaid sports jacket and pink Hawaiian print tie that passes for advertising, the new RealPlayer 10 is more compatible too; Real says it will play MPEG-4 Video and music downloaded from Apple's iTunes Music Store, though it can't handle the Digital Rights Management protocol Apple uses called FairPlay.

Still, if Real has changed I may consider not hating them, and maybe downgrade them to only disliking them a lot. Not that I would ever play my tunes through RealPlayer instead of iTunes on my Mac; I'd sooner roll naked downhill over a field of broken glass, then drive into a pool of iodine before doing something so silly. In fact, I can't think of any reason why anyone would play a tune on RealPlayer if they have iTunes installed, but it does give you a choice, and I like choices.

Maybe I've been too harsh on Real. I mean, they were only trying to make a buck, right? Maybe they deserve a second look. I think if Denice DeShields took a second look at me now maybe she wouldn't see the same geeky guy from grade school; maybe she'd see me for what I am now; a much older geeky guy. The point is; people change, and so might RealPlayer.

So, let's check them out, shall we?

Well, if we go to Real.com in search of this new free player, what do we find?

Hmmmm, things don't look much different; there are ads to upgrade to the RealOne SuperPass. There's a 14 day free trail for that.

Looking...Looking...

Oh, there it is! Up in the upper right corner of the screen in a grayed out font, the 'free' is in smaller text. Looking at that, most people would not be sure if it is just a page title or a link. It is a link, and if you are surfing on a Mac, it takes you to Real Player for OS X, version 9.

I guess some things take time to change.

Clicking on the link puts you on a secure page that declares that you will not be charged for the software, but there is nothing that state emphatically that you are about to download the free player versus the free-trial player. You must enter your e-mail address, name, gender, birth year, and create a password if you are new to Real.com. A pain, but I like the fact that the site is secured.

The player downloaded without a hitch and installed nicely.

Now that I have it on my Mac is it worth keeping?

There are some sites out there that don't support either QuickTime or Windows Media Player, only Real. For those sites alone I may decide to keep RealPlayer onboard.

The thing is; even if I compare RealPlayer to QuickTime for movie playing, I wonder why anyone would bother with RealPlayer: Take a peek at the trailer for Spiderman 2 using both RealPlayer and QuickTime; There's far more detail visible in the QuickTime view, which means there is far more information. More info most likely means the QuickTime files are bigger, but folks with broadband will likely not care as QuickTime will start playing the trailer as soon as it gets enough info downloaded.


QuickTime Rocks!

Real? Not!

In Real Player, before I could watch the trailer, I had to watch a 10 second ad for the Matrix Revolutions DVD. Also, if you want to watch the trailer in the largest format offered at the iFilm.com Web site, you have to have iFilm + with RealPlayer One Superpass, which will set you back a full $9.95 a month. True enough, the combo allows you access to other sites and videos, but QuickTime is free, or costs $29.99 for QuickTime Pro. Also, other sites, including Apple, give you videos, music, news and more, and the video and sound quality is top notch.

For instance, check out Endorphine.com. They've got the most gorgeous videos I've ever seen; a lot are free, but if you really want to experience great video, pay the $1.99 per month fee to get access to eye-popping, jaw-dropping, hi-rez vids that is absolutely worth your 2 bucks.

If music is your game, check out Magnatune.com. High quality MP3s with free music streams and cheap prices.

So, do I still deplore RealPlayer?

Well, it's not nearly as irritating as it once was; I won't boot it to the trash bin. RealPlayer has changed, and, in my humble opinion, has changed for the better, but it is still no competition to QuickTime. You still have to put up with ads, and finding the free player is not as simple as it should be, but the folks at Real have lightened up a bit; for the folks who like RealPlayer, that's a good thing.

BTW, Denice; I never 'stalked' you. I was 6 years old, fer crying out loud. It was coincidence that I just happen to be in your neighborhood everyday for 2 months. It is true that I asked about you a lot, and I may have mistakenly dialed you number a few dozen times, but I was a curious kid. What say we get together over lunch and talk about it? No need to send me your address, I know where you live.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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