Real Networks has launched RealPlayer 10, claiming it is the world's first free player to support all the major formats – including Apple's AAC.

The free download also claims better video and audio streaming and the ability to fast forward and rewind streams.

The BBC suggests that the successes of the headline grabbing iPod and Microsoft's media player, might make things difficult for Real. But Real Networks chief executive Rob Glaser is not concerned. He told BBC News Online: "If having 350m users worldwide is between a rock and a hard place, then it's a very nice situation to be in."

Glaser also expects to benefit from the European Commission's recent decision to fine Microsoft €497m euros ($613m; £331m) for bundling its media player with the Windows operating system. He said: "This has set European computer makers on the path to have more choice and flexibility and load Realplayer on their computers".

"RealPlayer 10, with its great flexibility and ease of use, will give Real the edge in the consumer market", he added.

Glaser dismissed Apple's iTunes service, pointing out that Real's Rhapsody music service "is the number one in the United States".

But all is not well in the Real world. According to the BBC: "Internet bulletin boards abound with hate mail postings about Real, accusing the firm's media players of taking over the computers of customers, and being highly intrusive as they try to push users towards premium services."