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CES: RealNetworks attempts to Unifi the cloud

RealNetworks previews Unifi, a personal media cloud service that lets you keep track of music, photos, and videos stored on multiple devices and online services.

Unifi photo library
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LAS VEGAS--These days, cloud services are all the rage for early adopters and business-minded individuals, but they haven't managed to make their way into the mainstream quite yet. However, companies like RealNetworks are banking on the fact that someday all consumers will want to store their content--media, in particular--up in the cloud.

Today, RealNetworks announced Unifi, a multimedia-centric cloud service that aggregates your photos, music, and video files from across multiple devices and online services. In other words, instead of having to keep track of multiple media libraries, you get a single online interface for organizing and accessing your content. Better yet, there are no restrictions on the type of content or its location, so the service will pull from absolutely any library and any device. Plus, all devices can act as "remotes" for the library, and you can upload images as well.

While it's not for everyone, the undeniable fact is that having your files stored in a readily accessible spot--from any location--is incredibly convenient. With Unifi, RealNetworks takes that convenience to the next level by providing a user-friendly interface that collects user content from across platforms and services. If they pull it off smoothly, we're pretty intrigued by the prospect.

Update: Unifi will be available as a public beta within the next couple of months for those who want to try it out, and RealNetworks intends to launch companion apps for the iOS and the Android platforms around the same time. Apps for BlackBerry and Windows 7 are expected to launch later in the year.

As for storage and pricing, Unifi is set to operate on the freemium model utilized by most other cloud services. The first 2GB are free, and there will also be subscription plans available up to at least 100GB.

I got a chance to sit in on a demo of Unifi, and the service and user interface are looking great so far. I especially liked the option to automatically back up photos taken on your device to the cloud. However, it seemed like the video functionality isn't fully baked yet, though RealNetworks does have plans to offer a premium video service down the line.