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Friday, July 30, 2004

Don't tread on my format

The iPod

Apple Attacks RealNetworks Plan to Sell Songs for iPod


Published: July 30, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO, July 29 - Apple Computer sharply criticized RealNetworks, the maker of media-playing software, on Thursday, saying it was investigating the legal implications of RealNetworks's decision to sell songs in Apple's music format. It accused RealNetworks of adopting "the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod."

Apple issued its angry statement just four days after RealNetworks started giving away software called Harmony that lets people download songs from its online music store and play them on Apple's popular iPod portable music players, as well as players using Windows Media Player and the Helix format from RealNetworks.

RealNetworks quickly shot back with its own strongly worded response, vowing to continue letting consumers play songs bought on its music service on any of the 70 music players on the market, including Apple's iPod.

"Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod," executives of Real Networks said in a statement. "Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility."

The statement added, "There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance, the first I.B.M.-compatible PC's from Compaq.''

While RealNetworks is the first company besides Apple to sell songs in the protected iPod format, other companies sell them in the MP3 format, which the player can also use.

Richard Doherty, a computer industry consultant and president of Envisioneering, said the dispute between Apple and RealNetworks intensified the debate about control over the sale and downloading of music. "Both companies seem resolute in their positions," Mr. Doherty said.

Apple said it was investigating whether RealNetworks's move violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or other intellectual property laws. RealNetworks responded that the copyright act, passed in 1998 to address the issues surrounding the distribution of digital content, explicitly permits the development of software that can share data with programs from other companies.

Apple also warned that Harmony might not work with future versions of the iPod software.

Robert Glaser, the chief executive of RealNetworks, has long been a critic of what he sees as Apple's proprietary strategy with the iPod, asserting that Apple was running the risk of following the same path it took in its development of its personal computer. Many in the technology industries have maintained that Apple's refusal to license its Macintosh operating system to other developers in the late 1980's contributed to the establishment of Microsoft's Windows monopoly.

Apple makes their money from hardware. I have always thought MP3 players cost too much and don't have the battery life and ease of use which would be needed for them to be a mass market product. The reality for Apple is that their last iMac failed and they haven't released the new version for sale. Their switch campaign failed as well. The iPod and iBook are bright spots in an increasingly fragile marketplace for Apple. While I like the iBook, the cost of the iPod has been such that I wouldn't spend my money on it.

And you can bet your ass future versions of Apple software won't work with Harmony. Not that Apple will sell music in the future. As part of their agreement with Apple Corp, the Beatles publishing company, they would refain from going into any music-related industries. Well, iTunes breachesw that wide open.

Jen got an iPod for Christmas and couldn't sync it to her PC and traded it in for sn iRiver. Personally, I've been looking for a cheaper alternative to the iPod frankly. I think paying $300 for a used iPod on eBay is a bit much. Also, I think the capacity doesn't match with the screen size. A 20GB iPod holds tens of thousands of songs. With the tiny screen, how do you organize the music. I don't know, I don't own am iPod. I've been leaning towards a disk=based system, but since Mini-Disc players have gone nowhere beyond Sony, there aren't a ton of choices.

The real player to watch in this market is Sony, who's looking to introduce a Windows-based iPod killer. I've seen the prototypes for this two years ago, but nothing since then. But if Sony jumps in the market, given their Vaio line as well as their reputation in consumer electronics, Apple's little profit center could go poof. The iPod is the survivor of a multimedia marketing strategy which was supposed to tie people into Apple products. Instead, Apple had to make Windows-friendly products.

What they don't want is to have someone poach on their higher fidelity format, and Rob Glazer, who has fought MS over the same issues of exclusivity. The difference is that MS doesn't face the loss of a major profit center. Hell, MS could sell Linux tomorrow as MSLinux and not lose a dime. Apple doesn't have that luxury. Also, given Steve Jobs rampant egomania, he doesn't want to give any ground.

posted by Steve @ 2:11:00 AM

2:11:00 AM

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