Red Hat Linux on the desktop is about to get a big multimedia boost.

Red Hat and RealNetworks announced Monday morning that the open source media player Helix will be distributed with Red Hat’s Linux desktop products.

Red Hat has made desktop products a major point of emphasis. In March, the Linux software developer and distributor announced “Red Hat Desktop”, labeling it as “a secure, manageable solution for the enterprise and is targeted at Government, Academic and Enterprise IT organizations.” The Desktop includes an e-mail client, browser and office suite.

Helix Player is an open source media player and provides the foundation for the forthcoming RealPlayer 10 for Linux. RealPlayer launched Helix two years ago.

Red Hat said the RealPlayer 10 upgrade would be made available as a no-cost upgrade.

“We expect to see continued innovation and growth in the Linux desktop market world-wide,” said Martin Plaehn, executive vice president of products and services for RealNetworks. “Providing desktop standardization for digital media via the Helix Player to consumers, businesses and developers as a software application and media enabling framework expands the capabilities of the Linux desktop and provides the market with new capabilities and more choices.”

RealNetworks was founded by Rob Glaser, a former Microsoft executive.

“An integral part of our open source architecture strategy, particularly in the client environment, is to work with industry leaders like Real to have them license their award-winning technology in a manner that will enable Red Hat to put our full weight behind the technology,” said Mike Evans, vice president for partner development at Red Hat, in a statement. “As the leading provider of open source solutions for the world’s enterprise market we’re excited that users of our upcoming Red Hat Desktop will also have a commercial-grade media player with the Helix Player.”

RealNetworks also announced a distribution agreement for the player with Novell on Monday. It had reached agreements already with TurboLinux and Sun Microsystems.

“Linux is making rapid progress on the desktop,” Dan Sheeran, a RealNetworks senior vice president, told The New York Times, “and this makes our technology the de facto standard for media-playing software on Linux.”

Red Hat: