Real Instigates iPod War

Just months after RealNetworks approached Apple with open arms to coordinate their online music strategies only to be spurned; RealNetworks shocked the world of digital music by introducing its new "Harmony" technology. Harmony translates between competing DRM standards and supports over 70 music players – including the iPod. In the aftermath of Harmony's launch, the souring relationship between RealNetworks and Apple can be described as anything but harmonious.

As evidenced by a statement released by Apple this Thursday and the ensuing war of words, things have gone from bad to worse. In the company's official response to Harmony, an Apple spokesperson stated, "We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws."

In a rebuttal to those remarks, RealNetworks dismissed Apple's legal posturing and cited what it deemed to be "clear precedent" for its activities, pointing to Compaq's first IBM compatible PC as an equivalent example.

"Apple has suggested that new laws such as the DMCA (Digital Millenium copyright Act) are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software," read a RealNetworks press release.

Real also asserted that Harmony creates an entirely difference way to "lock content" from Real's music store so that it is compatible with the iPod portable music player, Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) devices, and Helix DRM devices. According to RealNetworks, Harmony does not remove or disable any digital rights management system therefore not falling under the umbrella of the DMCA.

In what could quickly turn into a game of tit for tat, Apple has cautioned Real and its customers that it is "highly likely" that Real's technology will cease to work with all current and future iPods due to changes which are scheduled to be made in the iPod's software. Real publicly ridiculed this statement as an affront against consumer choice and advocated for the consumer's rights to choose what music goes onto their iPod.

"I expect Apple's more immediate and ongoing response to be technological, like with Playfair. Apple issues an iTunes update that disables Playfair and then the DRM-cracking software is updated in response. That could be the model for the eventual ongoing situation between Apple and Real," commented Jupiter Senior analyst Joe Wilcox.

Wilcox continued, "Apple's response should surprise no one. Real approached Apple on friendly terms and was rejected. So Real sought to solve the interoperability problem on its own. What seems to be missed here is that there is interoperability, through MP3. Consumers can buy songs from any music store, burn to CD and rip to MP3, which will play on the majority of music players, including iPod."

In related news Apple has let loose the forth generation iPod which features the "Click Wheel" first seen in the iPod Mini, longer battery life and a thinner profile.

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