NYTimes writes that the next battleground in consumer software is the digital player, with Real Media and Microsoft in the race.
The media player resides on the user’s computer or other device and opens a portal to what the industry calls rich media — movies, music, video — delivered over the Internet, just as the browser is a portal for viewing Web pages. The media player takes on additional importance because it seems to be the likely vehicle for some of the vital technology in the emerging field of digital rights management — a fancy name for piracy protection.
The media-player market today looks quite similar in some ways to the browser market in, say, 1997. An early media-player leader, Real Networks, is under pressure from Microsoft, just as the commercial pioneer of the browser market, Netscape, was then.
Microsoft bundles its digital media software with its Windows operating system, a monopoly product running on about 95 percent of all personal computers. As for user acceptance, at the moment Microsoft’s player is neck and neck with Real Network’s Real One Player, with each having more than 300 million registered users.