RealNetworks Inc. is merging its RealPlayer and Music Services business units into a single group so that the teams can collaborate on developing new products and services, the company announced Thursday.
The merged unit will bring together teams from the Seattle-based company’s RealPlayer, RealPlayer Music Store, RadioPass and Rhapsody divisions.
The new unit will be led by Robert Acker, who currently serves as vice president of the RealPlayer business unit, focused on the company’s flagship digital media playback software. Current Music Services Vice President Sean Ryan will be leaving the company later this month, however, “to pursue new business opportunities,” Real said in a statement. Ryan came to Real from San Francisco music startup Listen.com Inc., which was acquired by the software firm last year. Through the acquisition, Real gained Listen’s Rhapsody music service, which it has been building up as part of its digital music strategy.
The decision to merge the groups follows Real’s recent move to take on Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store by offering music from its own online store that could play on Apple’s iPod devices, using Real’s new Harmony technology.
After raising the ire of Apple by reverse-engineering the digital rights management technology used in iTunes and the iPod, Real further agitated the rivalry by launching a three week music sale that offered tracks and albums at half the price that iTunes charges.
Real cited the success of that sale, during which it claims to have sold over 3 million songs, as part of the impetus to merge its software and music services units, saying that it realized it needed to take a more integrated approach to capturing the digital music market.
It emphasized, however, that RealPlayer’s video playback functions will not be diminished in spite of the company’s new focus on music. That said, Acker has a radio background, and was a founding member of XM Satellite Radio where he helped the company develop consumer satellite radios, Real said