RealNetworks will release the source code (Helix DNA Client) for its media player – enabling developers to build free version of the player for Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

It marks the first open source initiative from the company as it ramps up its Helix product line and strategy. Within the next year it is expected to release an open source media server, as well as freely available technology to encode audio and video files.

Helix DNA Client is an open-source version of the engine that powers the company's commercial RealOne Player. It can be built into a diverse selection of devices, including handhelds, mobile phones and computers.

Public code Real will ship the code required to build players for desktop operating systems from Microsoft, Apple, and Linux. The code can be modified for other operating systems such as those from Symbian, Palm and Wind River Systems.

Dan Sheeran, vice president of media systems at RealNetworks, said: "You can grab this code and port it to your platform as quickly as you want."

The company is betting on the open-source development model to establish its media formats and technology as a standard for streaming and playing back media. RealNetworks competes with Microsoft and Apple in the field.

RealNetworks is also offering developers free access to its compression and decompression technology, or codec, so that open source players built with the Helix code will be able to play back RealAudio and RealVideo files.