“When I came back, I said: show me the iOS version of RealPlayer.”
RealNetworks (S RNWK) founder Rob Glaser still vividly remembers talking to his team after he returned to the company as CEO last summer, a job that he was forced to give up in 2010 amid declining revenue and a tanking stock price. The answer he got was that no such version was in development because there was no business model for it. So Glaser assembled a 100 person team to change that.
The result of these efforts is RealPlayer Cloud, a new product the company is launching Tuesday night to address the growing desire among consumers to share videos they have recorded with their phones and tablets with friends and family.
RealPlayer Cloud ties into the existing RealPlayer software, but it also comes with a web app and new apps for Android, (s GOOG) iOS (S AAPL) and Roku as well as 2GB of free cloud storage. Consumers who need more space can buy additional storage, with Real charging $5 per month for 25GB, $10 for 100GB and $30 for 300GB.
In a way, RealPlayer Cloud is a new take on the freemium model that has long been at the core of the company’s offerings, which used to make most of its money from constantly nagging consumers to a paid version of its software. But it’s also a very different.
For one thing, Real is looking beyond the PC market, which used to be its core moneymaker. “It’s a more wholehearted embrace of a diverse device world,” Glaser told me during an interview Tuesday.
Real’s second turnaround
One of the key lessons Glaser learned during his stint as a partner at VC firm Accel after he was removed from the CEO post back in 2010 was the need to take iPhones and mobile devices seriously. The other was a newfound respect for startups and the way they operate, something that Glaser tried to embrace at Real upon his return, with the move to a more agile development strategy and distributed, smaller teams.
By implementing these lessons, Glaser is now trying to attempt what he likes to call the second turnaround for RealNetworks. The first one happened in 2000, when the dotcom bubble bust and Real’s revenue nose-dived. Back then, the company tried to refocus as quickly as possible without being really able to reflect and reorganize the company. Instead, it dabbled with a whole lot of things, including premium content and a failed attempt to take on Hollywood on issues like media portability.
There’s no Dropbox for your iPhone videos
RealPlayer Cloud instead solely focuses on personal media. Clips consumers shoot with their own cameras can be as long as they want, but other videos are limited to 15 minutes to discourage piracy. And there’s a strong use case for this kind of personal media sharing: Consumers shoot tons of video on their smart phones, but share very little of it, and barely ever have a chance to watch their own videos on their TV. Real wants to open up the living room to personal media through its Roku app, with a Chromecast app following soon after.
That doesn’t mean that RealPlayer Cloud is a sure bet. Many companies have started to circle the personal video sharing space, from Google making it easier to share videos not only on YouTube but also Google+ to device makers like Sling and Roku embracing personal media as a part of their offering. But so far, there isn’t really a clear leader.
There’s no Dropbox for your iPhone videos — and Real believes it can fill that void and once again become as relevant as it used to be as a web video pioneer back in the 1990s. Said Glaser: “It really is a back-to-our-roots type of thing.”