RealPlayer sucks. Not the actual technology, which for a long time had a complete lock on audio and video streaming over the internet, and of which I used to be a happy consumer, but two things happened to erode Reals dominance. The first is that Microsoft saw a market that they didn't have 99% market share in and decided to start leveraging their monopoly on the desktop to try to squeeze out Real. This alone is fascinating since yet again MS is going after a market where the client is given away for free, just like they did with the browser market. My prediction is that in the end they will succeed in displacing Real, replacing RealPlayer with at best a mediocre client, then once the battle is won they will realize they have a monopoly that is useless. They will have a monopoly on audio/video players that is completely unleveragable, just like the browser. Congratulations, you have a 90% market share in web browsers, care to explain how you're going to monetize that? After realizing that they'll abandon all new development and leave customers in the lurch with a poor, unmaintained client and no competition.
But that's not what I wanted to talk about, what I really wanted to focus on is the other reason that Real will go out of business.
The idea behind RealPlayer is to give away the client for free in the hope of selling server software for serving up the content. Note that this is the same model that Netscape had. Somewhere along the way Real looked at all those downloads of the free player and got greedy, first by offering a "Premium" player for pay, then by going to what will certainly go down in history as the most agressive obfuscation and upsell campaign in history. The process to download and install the free RealPlayer is now an exercise in stealth (see if you can actually find the free version to download) and tedium (now unckeck all these boxes to avoid being spammed, don't forget to scroll down the page). Then, and only then, if you actually get past the install, manage to avoid getting 15 links splattered across your desktop, start menu and who knows where else, then you get ...drumroll... a whole new source of pop-ups! Everytime you start the program it, by default, drops onto a page that is basically an advertisement for Real, and then again when you quit it pops up an ad. All of this is annoying, annoying, annoying, and I'm not the only one to feel that way, turns out the folks at CarTalk got so many complaints that they dropped RealPlayer.
Real will go out of business or at the very least be driven to be a marginal player with a meager market share. They'll point to Microsoft as the source of all their woes when in fact it was their own greed and shortsightedness that will put them under. I've seen this show before, I know how it ends.