RealPlayer has been around for more than 11 years and has a massive installed base but new predictions from Website Optimization are indicating that the long-time battle between Windows Media Player and RealPlayer (OK, it’s not much of a battle) may soon become a three-way struggle with that pesky newcomer iTunes.

In mid-2005, iTunes overtook its stable partner QuickTime and with the explosion of the iPod+iTunes power combo, its growth has accelerated dramatically through 2005 and 2006. Where WMP is embedded in all versions of MS Windows and RealPlayer struck many a deal with PC manufacturers to have its software shipped by default, iTunes’ success is a fascinating combination of shipping with all Macs but ot PCs, but more importantly to hand-in-glove partner of the all-powerful iPod. That tight integration surpasses anything that either Real or MS could offer as they have multiple partners and have struggled to maintain standards and interoperability – something Apple has bypassed.

What was regarded as a structural weakness is rapidly turning into a fundamenta strength.