Real's Reality

The message in RealNetworks' antitrust case against Microsoft is clear: "Predatory conduct" by Microsoft is responsible for lost business that could exceed $1 billion in damages to the digital-media company.

Regardless of the lawsuit's merits, however, Microsoft's opposition is only one of a remarkable string of hardships faced by RealNetworks. The Seattle-based Internet pioneer has endured years of internal and external challenges, including new technologies, strategic mistakes and old-fashioned bad luck, that weren't caused by its crosstown rival.

No one would be shocked to find that Microsoft--never a stranger to strong-arm business tactics--has stunted RealNetworks' ability to compete. But the extent of such antagonism is difficult to gauge when the claimant is a rare survivor of the dot-com implosion and has been forced to remake itself repeatedly to ride out one of the more extraordinary boom-bust cycles in economic history. "First it was about getting its player out, then its premium player and server software, then middleware and a subscription business. Now it's in the games and music business," said a former RealNetworks executive who asked to remain unnamed. "Real's never had the luxury of time to let a business develop. Microsoft is playing a game 10 years at a time; Real is playing it three months at a time."

News source: C|Net

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