Real Buys WiderThan, Teams with PlayPhone

You’d think winning hundreds of millions of dollars from Microsoft in exchange for settling antitrust caims against the software giant would make RealNetworks bullish on Windows…maybe it is, but they also can’t seem to live without their cell phones. Yesterday, RealNetworks announced it has acquired South Korea’s mobile entertainment developer WiderThan for some $350 million; today, the company announced the launch of the new RealArcade Mobile content site in partnership with PlayPhone.

First, RealNetworks is paying $350 million to acquire South Korea’s WiderThan, which develops mobile music and entertainment applications, including ringback tones and music-on-demand service for mobile operators in 25 countries, including rolling out Verizon Wireless’s VCAST music service and pioneering music-related services on South Korea’s SK Telecom. RealNetworks expects the WiderThan acquisition to propel RealNetworks’ footprint in Asian markets and help WiderThan deploy solutions and technology to North American and European markets (where Real has strong footprints). The two companies also expect synergies to develop new mobile applications and technologies leveraging network operators’ 3G and 4G mobile networks.

"WiderThan is a world leader in mobile music services," said Rob Glaser, Chairman and CEO of RealNetworks. "Indeed, RealNetworks and WiderThan share a common tradition of technical innovation and end-to-end excellence in digital media. We believe the combination of RealNetworks and WiderThan will greatly enhance our digital entertainment products and services and accelerate our reach around the world."

As an example, WiderThan just rolled out two new services to mobile operators in the U.S., Middle East, Europe, and Africa: Photo SMS enables users to send photos with their text messages (recipients receive the messages via MMS), and Caller Tag, which enables callers to enhance the Caller ID information included with outbound calls.

To underscore RealNetworks’ focus on the mobile space, the company announced the RealArcade Mobile Web site, in conjunction with wireless content distributor PlayPhone. RealArcade Mobile offers consumers more than 150 games for their mobile phones, plus thousands of ringtones and wallpaper graphics. RealArcade Mobile can be accessed via both mobile phone and a standard PC-based Internet browser, and offerings support over 500 different mobile phone models used on the Cingular, AT&T Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile networks in North America. Game selections on RealArcade Mobile include popular casual games like Super Collapse, Luxor, Zuma, and Jewel Quest; users can subscribe to RealArcade Mobile for $9.99 a month, which includes 14 download credits which have a 90-day rollover lifespan.

"The market for mobile entertainment has grown tremendously over the past few years and consumers are increasingly using their cell phones for much more than just talking," said Ron Czerny, CEO of PlayPhone. "The new Web site will make it easy for people to find a whole host of games and content that work with their particular phone and service—all from one location."

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