Apple Disables RealNetworks Music Downloads on iPod photo

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Apple Computer has updated software on its iPod photo digital music player preventing users from playing music bought from RealNetworksi online music store, The Mac Observer has confirmed with Apple and RealNetworks. In a statement from Real, the company promised to look for ways to get around Appleis blocking of music files from its competing online music store.

"We are currently evaluating our options on providing iPod photo users with the ability to play music files from our online music store," ?Matt Graves, RealNetworks press spokesman, told TMO.

"We remain fully committed to providing consumers with the freedom to use the music libraries they purchase from us on different portable audio devices, both now and in the future -- including the iPod photo," RealNetworks said in a statement provided to TMO.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed with TMO that the iPod photo will not play Harmony downloads. RealNetworks confirmed other iPods were not similarly disabled in recent iPod firmware updates.

RealNetworks announced in July of 2004 that downloads from its online music store would play on the iPod, despite Appleis refusal to license that ability, with software the company dubbed Harmony. The software effectively allows downloads to work with Appleis FairPlay DRM scheme that the iPod uses to play songs from Appleis own iTunes Music Store.

Upon RealNetworksi announcement, Apple proclaimed the move to be "the tactics and ethics of a hacker," and warned users at the time that they might be blocked from playing Harmony downloads on iPods some time in the future.

The public fracas between Apple and Real over the rights to buy and play music on digital media devices pits two industry giants against each other with consumers stuck in the middle. At present, songs purchased from Appleis iTunes store can only be played directly on an Apple iPod, while songs purchased from sites such as Napster, Wal-Mart and MSN Music can only be played on devices supporting Microsoftis Windows Media Audio format. A recent survey by Jupiter research showed American consumers would be more inclined to buy a portable music device if it supported all format types and made downloading simple and hassle-free.

John Borland first reported that iPod photo would not play Harmony downloads in a report for ZDNet earlier on Tuesday.

Brad Gibson contributed to this article.

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