Real enables Windows Media on Linux.
RealNetworks will release open source software this year that will let Linux computers play Windows Media files.
The media delivery software company and Novell made the announcement at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco. Novell said it will include the tool in its Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 in the fourth quarter.
Currently, Linux users can play Windows Media Video (WMV) and Windows Media Audio (WMA) content if they install closed-source modules, said Jeff Duchmann, general manager of client and digital rights management technologies at RealNetworks. That will change as the result of a licensing deal RealNetworks has signed with Microsoft and its settlement of an antitrust suit against the software giant. It will release open source code to play the files as part of the Helix Community project it launched to bring RealNetworks technology to Linux.
"The work we're doing will all go into the Helix client," Duchmann said in an interview. However, the software won't support digital rights management available with Windows, he added.
RealNetworks is also evaluating adding support for the AAC compression format, an audio compression format used by Apple's iTunes and others, he said, though that would require further licensing actions for the company. "If we're going to do music services on other platforms, like Linux, we're going to have to support it," he said.
Duchmann added that RealNetworks also hopes to bring its music store technology to Linux.
Expanding application support is a key part of making Linux viable on desktop computers. It's a goal many companies have chased, largely unsuccessfully, for years. Novell is the largest company currently working on the idea, employing a catch-phrase of spreading Linux "from the desktop to the data centre".
"We have for the first time a real alternative to the Windows desktop. Linux and open source are there," Novell Chief Technology Officer Jeffrey Jaffe said at a news conference. In particular, there's a big chance for companies to make their case as customers evaluate Microsoft's new Vista version of Windows.
"Over the next six months, there is an opportunity for the IT organisations to do a significant pilot — to find several hundred users who are knowledge workers and let them as a pilot try out our desktop," Jaffe said.