To get the player, you must join one of RealNetworks' various monthly subscription services, such as its existing $9.95 SuperPass or its new $5.95 RadioPass service.
The launch comes on the heels of RealNetworks' July 22 announcement of its controversial Helix Platform. The technology lets online content providers stream RealVideo and RealAudio as well as Microsoft's Windows Media and Apple's QuickTime from a single server. Previously, providers needed separate servers for each media type.
RealNetworks developed the Helix technology without licensing Microsoft's Windows Media format. Dave Richards, RealNetworks vice president of consumer systems, declines to comment on whether legal issues could arise from the company's approach, saying only that the company is "confident we will be able to stay a universal player".
In addition to playing Windows Media and QuickTime files, RealOne Player Plus can run another 50 different audio and video formats, Richards says. The application now plays DVDs – and does so better than most stand-alone DVD software, he says.
Richards says: "Most DVD players are bundled with the PC, and they are pretty rough around the edges. Ours is simple, more like using your home DVD player."
Also new in the Plus version are improved CD burning features, and TurboPlay, which eliminates the need to buffer content if using a broadband connection.