Two new paid torrent-managing programs have launched today from BitTorrent, Inc., as the 100-million-user base of uTorrent also earned an update.
First announced in July, uTorrent Plus 3.1 (download) debuted with an unexpected counterpart, BitTorrent Plus 8 (download). Both mark the first time that a paid selection of features the company calls "premium" have been added to either client. Accompanying them is the version 3.1 update to uTorrent (download).
People with the free version of uTorrent will be able to play media files directly in the uTorrent interface, thanks to the newly-baked in media player. The player is powered by VLC Media Player, one of the best-known multi-platform and open-source media players available. uTorrent 3.1 users can also transfer torrented files directly to several popular devices, a process that Jordy Berson, director of product management for uTorrent, calls "shifting."
"What the users really care about is keeping uTorrent light and fast, and we obviously want to maintain that," he said when asked about how new features will affect the program's performance. Shifting uses a drag-and-drop interface, and works with all iOS devices, Apple TV, Android phones and tablets, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360. Further changes to the free version include bug and stability fixes.
Both Berson and Shahi Ghanem, chief strategist for BitTorrent, confirmed that the two free programs have a virtually identical set of features right now, as do the Plus versions.
The parent company BitTorrent Inc., is betting that the features in the new uTorrent Plus and BitTorrent Plus will appeal to those who want their torrent client to have some extra muscle. One of the most useful new features is an embedded virus scan that will check downloaded complete files automatically. Powered by BitDefender, the auto-scanning for viruses and malware cuts out an extra step.
Plus versions also include numerous media codecs that the free versions don't have. This means that while free users can play media only if the file format codec exists on their PC or device, Plus users can transcode files on the fly. Supported video and audio codecs include MPEG4, H.264, Theora, VP8, MP3, AAC, and AC3.
Another Plus feature adds a feature to the uTorrent Remote client, which can now be used to download files from your home library to your remote computer.
BitTorrent Plus and uTorrent Plus will both retail at $24.95 for a one-year license, which includes any product and feature updates. However, it's not clear how many torrent client users will choose to upgrade. The features added are hardly fluff. "Even in our expert audience, we're seeing some people saying, 'Wow, I actually want this product,'" said Berson. But in an unscientific survey that CNET ran when uTorrent Plus was first announced, more than 80 percent of the respondents said they would not pay for a torrent client.
Editor's note: Using P2P and file-sharing software to distribute copyrighted material without authorization is illegal in the United States and many other countries. CBS Interactive does not encourage or condone the illegal duplication or distribution of copyrighted content.