RealNetworks' Harmony promises iPod compatibility

RealNetworks Inc. on Monday introduced Harmony technology, which it says is the first digital rights management (DRM) translation service to allow users who buy music from the RealPlayer Music Store to play the music on other personal music devices, including the iPod.

Apple's iPod is the market's dominant digital music player and its iTunes Music Store is the market's dominant online music service. To date, the combination has effectively locked out the competition: Songs bought through iTunes are encrypted using Apple's FairPlay DRM, which works only with the iPod. The iPod does not support the DRM technology used by other services, like Windows Media Audio and RealNetworks' own Helix technology. RealNetworks promises that its Harmony technology enables users to play music on the player of their choice.

Back in April, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser encouraged Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an e-mail to make the iPod compatible with Real's own service. RealNetworks Vice President, Corporate Communications Greg Chiemingo said that his company's RealPlayer Music Store used the same audio format as Apple's -- Dolby Advanced Audio Codec (AAC). "We just want to make it easy to manage music that people pay for and legally download," Chiemingo told MacCentral.

RealNetworks' overtures appeared to fall on deaf ears, however. During a press conference marking iTunes Music Store's one-year anniversary, Jobs suggested that Apple's dominance in the market gave it little motivation to partner with RealNetworks or anyone else.

RealNetworks lacks a digital music player of its own -- the company relies on licensing partnerships with device manufacturers, and has struck deals with the manufacturers of hardware devices including Creative and Palm. With this new Harmony technology, RealNetworks said that its RealPlayer Music Store now supports more secure portable music players than any other music store on the Internet -- more than 70 devices in total, including all four generations of Apple iPod, 14 products from Creative, 14 from Rio, 7 from RCA, 9 from PalmOne, 18 from iRiver, and products made by Dell, Gateway and Samsung. Generally, said RealNetworks, anything that uses Apple's FairPlay, Windows Media Audio or Helix DRM should work with Harmony.

RealNetworks promises to demonstrate Harmony technology at work on Tuesday, July 27 at the Jupiter PlugIn conference in New York, New York. On Tuesday, the company also plans to offer a beta test version of RealPlayer v10.5, which will offer Harmony support. RealNetworks also plans to integrate Harmony technology into other products later this year.

Representatives from Apple and RealNetworks were unavailable for comment as MacCentral posted this article.

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