The Washington Post has published a critical look at RealNetworks' RealPlayer 10 software.

The review is especially critical of Real's tendency to use its ubiquitous software as part of its marketing efforts. For example, new users of the company's software must dig deep within the company's site to obtain a link to the free version of RealPlayer.

The report also criticizes the company's online music store – "an appalling mess," it says. This feature doesn't affect Mac users, as the software is Windows-only, but may in future affect Apple's iTunes Music Store sales.

"RealPlayer's strongest advantage: It plays almost every format you're likely to encounter online or on your hard drive, including MP3, AAC, QuickTime and Windows Media," the report states.

"RealPlayer 10 can even play songs bought off such online stores as iTunes and Napster – although iTunes songs are identified in RealPlayer only by file names, leaving out the usual artist, album and title data. (A Real spokesman said this would be fixed in the final version)," the report adds.