RealNetworks Enters RealTime News Arena

RealNetworks is taking a step out of the streaming media and music businesses to launch RealTime, a new browser toolbar/screensaver combination which automatically draws personalized news, feeds, and images to users’ desktops. RealTime competes with toolbar offersings from Yahoo and Google (as well as built-in tools Microsoft is increasingly bundling into Internet Explorer and the Windows operating system) and marks the first time RealNetworks has attempted to compete in the news delivery business.

“We’ve designed an easy-to-use and visually appealing way to have personalized news and information delivered right to desktops,” said Jeff Chasen, Real’s vice president of media software, in a release. “With people’s busy lives, many don’t have time to follow the topics which interest them.”

RealTime enables users to set up subscriptions to stock and weather information—plus news feeds, blogs, photostreams, and anything else with an RSS feed;mdash;and RealTime then draws the information in to user’s desktops via a built-in screensaver which rotates through the received headphones, photos, and images. Clicking on any of the items brings up the appropriate article, image, or item. RealNetworks has set up partnerships with Reuters, the Associated Press, SmartMoney, Feedster, and other sources to help users get started with their feed setups. Users can personalize the product by configuring preferences through the Realtime Web site, and provides editorial recommendations based on the data streaming to user’s desktops.

The RealTime beta is available for Windows as a free download; RealNetworks hasn’t provided any other system requirement information, although they have set up a product blog to gather comments from users.

If RealTime sounds eerily familiar, that might be because its news-as-Internet-screensaver model was orginally pioneered by PointCast, the first major success—and first major blowout—of so-called “oush technology” during the 1990’s Internet boom.

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