Real Networks, makers of the RealPlayer music and media management application, have launched a new version of their software. RealPlayer SP for Windows is available immediately as a beta download, with a Mac version expected by the year end.

RealPlayer SP supports high-definition video downloads and can be used on a greater variety of devices than its predecessor, RealPlayer 11.

Real Networks RealPlayer SP

RealPlayer SP, which stands for social and portable, enables consumers to download any non-DRM (digital rights management)-protected video clips or shows to their Windows PC and to share it via Facebook or Twitter as well as email. The social networking elements are new to RealPlayer in the SP version, while RealPlayer 11 users were already able to share clips via email.

Also new to the software is automatic video conversion for a broad range of portable devices. These include the iPhone and iPods, BlackBerry and Nokia handsets and games consoles including Microsoft's XBox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3. Real Networks will continue to add devices to the list "dynamically". Supported codecs include the highly-compressed H.264 Mpeg4 codec used on iPods and the iPhone.

A clip can be exported to and encoded for several devices simultaneously - an aspect that Real Networks expect to appeal to content producers who want to produce video clips that can be viewed on multiple device types.

As well as specifying your portable device from a dropdown list, you will be able to select a Custom option where you choose the screen size and resolution that matches that of your MP3 player or mobile phone. The software then converts your chosen clip to a suitable file format and display size. Where a player doesn't support video, the audio track only will be converted and saved to the portable player.

Real Networks demonstrated how the same clip could look different on different devices, first demonstrating the video conversion process on a BlackBerry 8210 handset and then on a BlackBerry Bold, which has a superior screen resolution.

Customers who want to be able to enjoy HD (high-definition) downloads on their portable device will need to pay a one-off fee of £24.99 for the privilege. This will buy them a RealPlayer SP Plus licence that also allows them to copy video to DVD. Existing RealPlayer 11 Plus customers will be able to migrate to the new version of RealPlayer Plus for free.

The RealPlayer software, which resides on the user's PC, automatically detects whether a clip is downloadable or has rights protection preventing unauthorised downloads.