Helix for Universal Media Content

Real Networks announces Helix as an open-source project:

RealNetworks has announced its intentions to join the open source community by launching the Helix Platform, an open-source set of solutions that promises to deliver a variety of media formats.

The Helix Platform contains the source code for three major components: the Helix DNA client, server, and encoder. The source for all related APIs will also be made available.

As a product, Helix’s main push appears to be the ability to host a variety of media formats in a single solution, thereby eliminating the need for a media provider to purchase and maintain several different media servers.

After Mozilla and OpenOffice, Helix holds the promise of being a very important open source initiative. A NewYork Times article provides additional background:

Under the licensing strategy, companies will be able to freely gain access to the underlying code that the Helix program is based on, but they will still pay a licensing fee when they sell commercial products based on the technology.

The community-source approach to software, which was pioneered by Sun to distribute its Java programming language, is a variation upon the original free software or open-source approach which has confounded the software industry in recent years.

While open-source software can be freely shared, with some restrictions, the community-source approach is more restrictive and yet still tries to persuade others to collaborate and add innovative ideas.

RealNetworks is trying to strike a balance between opening up its technology to persuade others to participate and innovate and not losing control of the technology entirely, Mr. Glaser said. “We think we’ve struck the balance well,” he said.

Analysts said the strategy shift by RealNetworks was likely to shake up the industry. “The moment you’ve open-sourced something you’ve cornered your competitor,” said Matthew Berk, an analyst a Jupiter Research. “To date this stuff has been very proprietary. Opening it up makes it accessible to creative and gifted programmers who will come up with wild stuff that the companies have never considered.”

Bruce Perens has more details on the Open Source aspects of the announcements [on Slashdot]. A related report from The Register.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.