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Mobile

RealNetworks hears the wireless call

The company introduces new software that wireless carriers could use to offer streaming music and video to subscribers. Such services may take a while to arrive.

RealNetworks on Tuesday unveiled RealSystem Mobile software that wireless carriers could use to offer streaming music and video to subscribers.

Mark Donovan, RealNetworks group manager of products and services, said the company is in talks with several carriers, but no deals have been signed yet. AT&T Wireless used RealSystem Mobile during a trial period, according to Donovan.

The new software includes RealSystem Producer, for creating digital content intended for cell phones, personal digital assistants and laptops; RealSystem Mobile Server, for delivering live and on-demand content; and RealSystem Mobile Gateway, a proxy-caching tool for optimizing transmission of data to mobile systems.

It also includes a version of RealOne Player optimized for mobile devices. That version of the player software has been tweaked for use with Intel's StrongARM SA-1110, PXA250 and PXA210 applications processors, RealNetworks said.

The ability to download songs and see video highlights on a cell phone are some of the new services that wireless carriers are exploring to earn more money. They could either charge customers a fee for every song or video downloaded, or offer a subscription service, for example.

Though most carriers have either launched, or plan to launch, networks that can download files to handsets at about the same speed as PCs with a dial-up connection, they have so far been hesitant to offer these kinds of services.

Even with the newer networks, video clips don't translate well to a cell phone's tiny screen, and the slow Net connection speeds make downloading and listening to an MP3 a frustrating task.

Regardless, Donovan predicts that digital audio or video download services will arrive in the United States by the end of the year. Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless, Sprint PCS or AT&T Wireless will likely offer the service to customers, he said.

The RealSystem Mobile software is available to mobile carriers now.