Motorola adds RealOne Player to Linux phones

Motorola is to use the RealNetworks RealOne Player in some of its mobile phones.

Motorola is to use the RealNetworks RealOne Player in some of its mobile phones.

Motorola's licensing agreement covers any operating system it chooses to develop phones on, but initially RealNetworks and Motorola will focus on Linux-based handsets targeting the consumer mass market.

"We are working on a specific handset together, one of the first in a family of Linux-based handsets from Motorola," said said Ian Freed, vice president for mobile products and services at  RealNetworks.

Both companies plan to announce the agreement later today at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association event in Las Vegas.

Motorola said in February that it would launch a mobile phone this year which supports Java and runs a special version of Linux developed by MontaVista Software.

After the agreement with Motorola, RealNetworks has deals with all of the top four handset makers, accounting for almost 70% of handsets sold worldwide. Nokia, Samsung and Siemens have already selected RealNetworks' software.

RealNetworks also announced an agreement in June with mobile operator Vodafone Group, which will use RealNetworks' software to distribute audio and video content to users of its Vodafone Live wireless data service.

However, Freed admitted it is early days for multimedia on mobile phones. RealNetworks expects between 50 million and 100 million "multimedia handsets" to be sold next year. In 2002, 423 million mobile phones were sold, according to research firm Gartner.

Mobile networks also need to be upgraded for video streaming to work well on mobile phones, Freed said. Many operators have planned or are in the process of doing those upgrades.

Motorola really did not have much choice, said Ken Dulaney, vice president of mobile computing with Gartner. "I think it was kind of a fait accompli."

The key is access to content, according to Dulaney. Content providers generally encode their audio and video in RealNetworks' and Microsoft's formats, but Microsoft sticks to its own operating environment when it comes to player software. 

Media players are crucial on smart phones. They are one of the first applications people use to access stored or streaming audio and video, said Dulaney.

The mobile version of RealNetworks' RealOne Player is available for Linux, OpenWave, Palm and Symbian, four of the main mobile phone operating systems.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

Read more on IT strategy