BitTorrent Inc. is starting a limited alpha test for µTorrent Plus Thursday, a premium version of its successful µTorrent client that will eventually be available to subscribers for a $25-per-year fee. µTorrent Plus offers transcoding and syncing, making it easier to play back content on a variety of mobile and connected devices, as well as added security and file playback support. For BitTorrent, it’s also a step toward diversifying its revenue streams.
BitTorrent Director of Product Management for µTorrent Jordy Berson told me the following in an email about the release:
“µTorrent Plus offers a few key things our users have been asking for, most importantly play any file on any device and added security. While we are fully committed to the free µTorrent, we’re really excited to offer people something new.”
µTorrent has long been the most popular Windows BitTorrent client out there. Advanced users value its minimalistic simplicity, which can be challenging for newcomers. BitTorrent Inc. is trying to address this by making playback and portability of content easier in the Plus version, while at the same time, keeping the pure µTorrent experience in the free version of the app.
That approach seems clever, and it could also help BitTorrent to add another source of revenue to its business. The company has been almost exclusively dependent on bundled software that’s offered to users during the installation process and through dedicated content channels.
These kinds of affiliate partnerships are common in the P2P space, but they can also be risky. Video software and codec maker DivX at one time generated 21 percent of its revenue by bundling the Yahoo toolbar with its free products. Then Yahoo pulled out — and DivX had to lay off 10 percent of its workforce.
BitTorrent didn’t really want to acknowledge these issues played a role in its decision to launch µTorrent Plus, with the company’s chief strategist Shahi Ghanem telling me via email, “µTorrent Plus is not designed as a business-oriented release but was specifically created to give our users the transcoding and security features they’ve been asking for.” Still, I’d bet BitTorrent’s investors and employees are feeling good knowing the company is diversifying its revenue streams.
Want to try out µTorrent Plus Alpha yourself? Follow this link for one of 500 invites.