RealNetworks launched a new version of its RealOne media player yesterday, but the product's biggest new feature is somewhat of an overstatement. The company claims that RealOne v. 2.0 is the first "universal player" because it supports all three of the most important online video formats: RealVideo, Windows Media Video (WMV), and Apple QuickTime MPEG-4. But the RealOne player requires installation of Windows Media Player (WMP) and Apple QuickTime Player on users' systems before they can enable that support. So whatever benefits the universal player offers users are unclear.

"Today's announcement truly changes the rules of digital media for both consumers and the industry," said RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser. "With only one player, consumers can now get all the media they want: Just click, and it plays."

Users who want to take advantage of the universal player features will have to purchase the $20 Plus player. But some of the free version's features are quite impressive; RealOne v. 2.0 supports DVD playback and full-speed CD burning, two features that often come at an extra cost. For more information, visit the RealNetworks Web site.