Almost a thousand years ago,
Canute the Great
was the king of England, Denmark and Norway. As are most leaders, he was trailed by a retinue of hangers-on who praised him at every opportunity, often claiming that even supernatural feats were within his command.
Canute grew weary of the hype and decided to cut it short with a graphic demonstration of the limit of his powers. He had his chair placed at the edge of the sea, and as the tide rolled in, he commanded it to stop. No luck, of course, on stopping the tide, but Canute managed to gain a respite from the clamoring of the crowd.
Now, in the dawn of the 21st century, Apple’s musical efforts have won the huzzahs of the media and a lot of citizens, and it holds a commanding lead in sales of digital music players and downloaded tunes. It’s begun a creative licensing strategy that has made partners of corporate giants such as Hewlett Packard, Pepsi, and Motorola.
But, in the not too distant future, Microsoft will roll out its own digital music strategy, and, given its almost unlimited bankroll, will likely prove a formidable opponent for Apple.
In the meantime, however, RealNetworks is proving to be a real pain in Apple’s side. In April,
Real approached Apple
about making the iPod compatible with Real’s RealPlayer Music Store (RPMS). Request denied. This week Real announced the
release of Harmony, a digital rights management translation service that will enable RPMS customers to play those songs on an iPod.
Apple has retaliated by
claiming Real used “hacker” tactics
to achieve its ends, threatening to invoke the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to cause Real to cease and desist, and darkly hinting that it has the means to ensure that Real’s tunes “cease to work with current and future iPods.”
to Apple’s comments by claiming that. “Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod.”
Now, I’ve always found RealPlayer to be an unsatisfying piece of software, and over the years, I’ve had oodles of trouble with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player. Whereas Apple’s QuickTime media player has always performed quite nicely on my Macs, and Windows-using friends have generally applauded how it works on their machines. But even QT-hating Win-users don’t advocate suing Apple for developing a client that runs on their machines.
I think Apple’s got a unique set of problems to deal with, and I’m not sure that its current strategy is a winner. RealNetworks has the high ground when it claims that consumer choice is all-important. After all, we’re not talking piracy here — which Steve Jobs has claimed as the real enemy — but rather competition, which is the spur of invention and, inevitably leads to more choice.
Apple needs to recognize, as Canute did, that it can’t stop the tide, and get back to ruling its digital music kingdom wisely.
RealNetworks “Harmony” ignites battle between Real and Apple
RealNetworks on Monday introduced
Harmony technology, which it says is the first digital rights management 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 on Thursday announced it was “stunned” that Real “adopted the
tactics and ethics of a hacker
to break into the iPod,” is investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA. Apple also warned RealNetworks and its users that the Harmony technology will likely not work in the future. Real subsequently
reaffirmed its commitment to Harmony
and noted, “Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod.”
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Around the Web
For Apple, Harmony Is off-key
BusinessWeek’s Peter Burrows analyzes the coming battle between RealNetworks and Apple over the former’s announced Harmony technology, which will enable consumers to play Real-formatted songs on iPods, and suggests Apple “should clearly and firmly squelch Real’s attempt to infiltrate (its) music empire.”
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