New, Cool RealPlayer

1:00 PM -- RealNetworks Inc. (Nasdaq: RNWK) announced the latest version of RealPlayer yesterday, with the big new function being the ability to download any embedded video from Internet Explorer or Firefox.

A small, relatively unobtrusive "download this video" button appears in the corner of anything applicable (including .flv files, e.g., YouTube) and a single click brings it home to the Player on your computer. DRM-protected files (e.g., entire ABC shows) will not be available for download. Videos can be watched on the computer or burned to CD, and, with a paid upgrade to RealPlayer Plus, burned to DVD. For a look at the Player in action, peep the edited Scoble interview.

In addition to the downloading ability, Real has rehabbed the most annoying features of its software. According to a Real rep on the CNET boards, "Startup is dramatically faster. The core engine of the player and the video playback have been streamlined. The installation has also been streamlined -- three screens and that's it: no upsells, no message center, etc." When I think of RealPlayer, visions of restarting my Quadra in 1998 and various error messages dance in my head, so this gives me hope.

As with nearly every innovation in online video, Real's new Player will probably get them sued. Although grabbing vids from the Web is nothing new, a high-profile company making it easy will not go over well. The promises to honor DRM are reasonable; maybe the next big move for a video host could be an option to download-proof hosted videos.

— A.L. Friedman, Editor at Large, Light Reading

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