RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser warned the film and video industry of a threatened surge in piracy if it does not deliver compelling online services at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
In an inerview with IDG News Service (IDGNS), Glaser said: "The threat of piracy has reduced in music, but threatens new industries today. There were more questions in music a year ago because piracy had gone for so long, and when you have a curve like that you don't know what its nadir is until after you come back up.
"We were confident that most consumers want to do things in a legitimate way if you make it easy, have broad availability of content and flexible rules for the use of the content. Between what we have done with Rhapsody, what Apple is doing with iTunes and a couple of other examples, the industry is moving in the right direction.
"It provides a contrast to the film and video area, where the industries aren't moving fast enough to skip over the Napsterization step. The growth of video piracy is happening even as the music piece is turning. For video to avoid the trough that music went through, it has to get to that critical mass of great services faster than it is doing."
IDGNS: HP last week announced it will release a digital music player later based on Apple's iPod and preinstall Apple's iTunes jukebox software on its consumer PCs and notebook systems. Does that hurt RealNetworks?
Glaser: "iTunes is only going to be used for playing songs you bought using the iTunes store or ripped using iTunes. What we have done with RealPlayer 10 by making it universal is create a solution that we think consumers will flock to. Imagine the situation that you buy a couple of tracks from the iTunes store, a couple of tracks from Napster and hopefully you'll buy tracks from the RealPlayer Music Store. You want it to just work.
"What Apple is doing reinforces format diversity. Even though Apple is narrowly focused on their one format, their success reinforces the need for people to take a universal approach. We're the only major player that does that."
IDGNS: "Apple offers both the iTunes media player and the iPod hardware, will we ever see a RealNetworks device?"
Glaser: "We're not likely to make our own hardware. We will have hardware partners who we work closely with to make sure that we deliver a great end-to-end experience. We are already doing that with Palm, we're working on that with Creative Labs. We will increasingly work with more and more device makers out there."
IDGNS: "Some analysts see the announcement you made with IBM to combine your digital media technologies with IBM's middleware software as a competitive move against Microsoft, which has been pushing its Windows Media server software. How do you see your partnership with IBM?"
Glaser: "We saw a big opportunity to help people build applications that are in a very broad range of categories. It could be subscription services, it could be stores, it could be an internal archiving application. We have always been interested in that element of the digital media market in addition to all these consumer products and services, and IBM has very broad reach. IBM is very strong worldwide and has particular presence in both the IT and line of business organizations of a number of media companies. We see significant opportunities in people who are traditional IBM customers, or traditional Real customers, or some of our joint customers or new people who are getting into this and off the sidelines."