Real Fires Another Shot at iTunes With New Versions of Rhapsody

RealNetworks Inc. on Tuesday continued its battle with Appleis iTunes as it unveiled three new subscription tiers available through its Rhapsody music service: Rhapsody 25, Rhapsody Unlimited and Rhapsody to Go. Unfortunately, the service continues to be inaccessible to Mac users, who may recall that last year, Real figured out how to make its Rhapsody service compatible with the iPod only to see Apple shut it out again.

Rhapsody 25 is a free service that allows anyone who downloads the jukebox software to listen to 25 tracks from the Rhapsody library each month. Real said that it will offset the cost of paying music labels for the songs with its new Chrysler sponsorship. The company is also in a business relationship with Google that it noted should provide additional funds. Listeners can share their playlists with others through Rhapsodyis Web-based Share Playlist feature.

Rhapsody Unlimited is a subscription-driven service that costs US$9.99 per month and allows listeners to download as much music as they want to their computers. They retain access to the songs as long as they remain subscribers and can purchase outright many tracks and albums for 89 cents and $8.99, respectively.

Rhapsody To Go is Realis version of Napster To Go. For $14.99 a month, users can download as much music as they want and transfer it to any compatible MP3 player, except the iPod. Among the recommended players are Creativeis Zen Micro line and the iRiver H10 -- the latter is available with a $100 mail-in rebate for users who sign up for a year of Rhapsody To Go.

Each tier of the Rhapsody service features access to a library of over one million songs, a customizable homepage inside the jukebox software, iTunes-like music management, parental controls and more. All downloaded songs are in 192kbps RealAudio 10 with AAC format.

Real will redirect users with Mac browsers away from the main Rhapsody site, but you can download a utility called Safari Enhancer that will activate Safariis Debug menu, where you can tell the browser to mimic Microsoft Internet Explorer for Windows. That will allow you to view the site.