Real Networks has unveiled the twelfth iteration of its RealPlayer media playback software.
Dubbed "RealPlayer SP," the new RealPlayer includes version 11's ability to grab Flash-based videos from any Web browser, although not copy-protected ones. The big upgrade is the ability to easily transcode and transfer those videos to a wide array of portable devices, including many Blackberry models, the Zune, and -- via iTunes -- the iPod and iPhone. It also offers the ability to easily share online video links via social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as via email.
We were able to get a brief early look at the SP beta. The software certainly made it easy to download several Flash videos from YouTube. It was also simple to choose the preset for converting and transferring the videos to a format compatible with a Palm Pre. But once we transferred the files to the Pre, we weren't able to play them back. However, an earlier demo from a Real Networks rep successfully transferred videos to a Pre, a Blackberry Bold, and -- via a transfer to iTunes -- the iPod Touch, so we're assuming this was an isolated glitch.
Aside from the Pre playback bug, there were other frustrations. Many of the videos we wanted to save -- a "Star Trek" episode on YouTube and a CNET.com video -- were all copy-protected, and thus not able to be saved. The process is time-consuming: downloading was pretty fast, as was USB transfer to portable devices -- but the transcoding process was rather long for videos longer than a minute or two in length. To be fair, though, slow transcoding time is pretty much endemic to file conversion software.
In the US, the RealPlayer SP beta will soon be available for Windows from realplayer.com. The Basic version of the software will be free, while the premium Plus version -- which offers h.264 video conversion, DVD playback, and DVD burning -- will cost $40. It will compete with rival offerings such as Nero Move It, Format Factory, and DoubleTwist (some of which also offer social media hooks).