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RealNetworks blends Jukebox and Player

Beta version of Real Entertainment Center includes updated RealJukebox 2 and RealPlayer 8

First Microsoft adds a jukebox to its streaming media player. Now RealNetworks is combining updates of its player and jukebox into an entertainment suite.

Today (Monday 22 May), RealNetworks releases a beta of the Real Entertainment Center, which updates both of RealNetworks' consumer products in a single download.

Available in both free and the pay for Plus versions (around £30), Real Entertainment Center includes RealPlayer 8, RealJukebox 2, and RealDownload 4. But unlike Windows Media Player 7, you can still get RealPlayer 8 and RealJukebox 2 separately.

They're free, or cost around £20 each in Plus versions. "We're taking a suite approach with appropriate amounts of integration," says Rob Grady, product manager of RealNetworks' consumer group.

"You have the choice to build a rack-mount digital entertainment center in pieces or at once."

Because you must download RealNetworks' products, Real Entertainment Center offers RealDownload 4. It lets you pause and resume downloads and even queue up downloads for later, Grady says.

RealPlayer 8 adds media services from Real.com, including a radio tuner, an artist guide, a music guide, media search, media guide, message service, Take 5 news service, and media channels.

"We're taking the tuner and guide and moving it down to the desktop," Grady says.

The radio tuner offers one-click access to more than 2500 stations listed by genre. You can access the same tuner in RealJukebox.

RealPlayer 8 also adds contextual video search. For example, you can find just the Santana interview from the Grammy awards clip, Grady says.

The Take 5 news service has added a daily baseball update and a download selection.
RealJukebox 2 lets you store and encode your digital music collection.

The free version records CDs at 96 kbps while the Plus version supports 320 kbps, or CD-quality encoding.

RealJukebox supports all the major codecs and digital rights management systems including MP3, Liquid Audio, Mjuice, Real Audio, A2B, and Windows Media, Grady adds. The company plans to support Sony and Universal systems.

Experienced users will be able to view and edit the metadata--such as artist information, lyrics, and album art--pulled from Real.com. "We provide minimal track information with the initial lookup, but you can add a lot more data," Grady says.

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