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RealNetworks inks another wireless deal

The streaming media company will provide software for delivering video and audio to Ericsson mobile devices, the latest sign of momentum for Real in the wireless industry.

RealNetworks has signed a deal to provide technology for delivering audio and video content to Ericsson Mobile devices, in the latest sign of momentum for the streaming media provider in the wireless industry.

Ericsson on Wednesday said it has licensed RealNetworks' media engine and codecs for use in its mobile devices. Ericsson had previously licensed RealNetworks' Helix server software for use in backend systems for delivering video and audio over wireless networks.

The deal comes as RealNetworks aggressively courts wireless device makers and service providers in a bid to shore up its flagging server software business. In addition to Ericsson, the company has signed deals to provide streaming media technology for wireless service providers and device makers including AT&T Wireless, Motorola, Vodofone and Nokia.

"I see this as incremental momentum," said Phil Leigh, senior analyst at Tampa, Fla.-based research firm Inside Digital Media. "Ericsson isn't as big as Nokia, but it's still a major player in wireless."

Delivering video and audio to wireless devices is seen as a boon for carriers, which can bill more for such services. But the market is so far unproven and faces potential hurdles over quality and cost. Video especially will rely on new, high-speed wireless data networks known as 3G that are coming online in Asia, but have barely begun to be launched in the United States and Europe.

Wireless has become more important to RealNetworks as it faces increased competition on the PC, primarily from Microsoft. Fighting back, RealNetworks last year unveiled its Helix server and client products, which support streaming files encoded in multiple formats, including Microsoft's Windows Media, Apple Computer's QuickTime and industry standard MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group), among others. Most other competing products do not support competitors' technology.

Microsoft and Apple also have been pushing to win adoption for their streaming technologies off the desktop, but neither has made as deep inroads as RealNetworks. Apple last year signed a deal with Japan's NTT DoCoMo to support Quicktime, while Microsoft has gained some support for Windows Media on wireless devices that use its Windows CE and Smartphone operating systems.

The Helix client "enables manufacturers with easy access to the most flexible solution for creating compelling audio and video functionality suited to their unique customer and product requirements," said a statement from Nagesh Pabbisetty, RealNetworks vice president of consumer products and support.