Would I build a Helix client?
The RealOne client, which is the foundation of the Helix client, currently supports Windows Media and other formats in addition to Real files. Marc raises a good point about the spec of Helix provided by Real here, which implies that Real is the only format it currently supports at a binary level. That means, as I read it, that a developer will need to license Windows Media codecs separately.
Because the Helix client is, for the most part, open now, it is relatively straight forward to integrate codecs for new versions of Windows Media and competitive streaming formats into a client that, if I had any programming talent (which I don't), would be able to handle multiple subscription services accounts, process metadata and perform other functions to add to the experience of media. For instance, I'd like point and click to book mark and save points in a streaming file where I would want to start the stream the next time, instead of having to hand code the entry point in a URL, as David Weinberger does here. Then, I'd have a library of streams that are useful when I want them, like what I have with portable digital audio in the AudibleManager software I use to download and play audiobooks, radio programs and periodicals on my iPod. (Disclosure: I get a check every month from Audible for consulting services, so don't take my word for it -- try it yourself.)
I can also port the Helix player to new platforms under Real's open source license, so just as Macromedia has announced Flash now runs on the Palm OS, I could port a Helix player with features Real doesn't provide to a handheld or other platform. This all assumes I would pursue a streaming-centric approach to media delivery.
The question, however, is what's going to be on the player once I build it? Right now, if I buy a RealOne subscription, I get a limited range of programs for my monthly fee, and I don't necessarily get what I want, besides streaming baseball games. One can take only so many bikini contest programs or Big Brother 24/7 and I don't care about NASCAR. A Helix client with support for secure access to both RealOne and Windows Media premium content would give me a wider choice -- it will also give me more leverage as a consumer to demand the unbundling of programs, so that I can really pick and choose what I want. Imagine this capability on a PVR and the potential becomes really quite interesting -- would you rather have a client on the PVR that tells you just what is on cable that you can record, or would you want a client that also gave you the option of getting programming from Web sources, as well? I think the answers pretty simple: More choice is better.
Now, if only the notion of "basic" and "premium" programming shibboleths would pass like the kidney stone it is in guts of the online programming business and we got to pure a al carte selections combined with some bundled packages that address specific audiences, we might get to a business model that consumers will appreciate. It's a simple straightforward fact that we don't change television sets to watch different channels, so an open source media client that facilitated getting premium content from a number of sources without having to switch players is the right idea.Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe at October 30, 2002 11:58 AM | TrackBack