The fued between RealNetworks and Apple Computer over the Mac makers refusal to license its digital rights management (DRM) technology is expected to heat up another notch Monday as Real has announced new software that allows songs purchased through its online music store to be played on any portable media player, including Appleis iPod.
Until now, other companies have been unable to offer people the ability to buy music from their service and play it on the popular iPod, which is the best selling portable music device in the world. Apple has blocked that ability by refusing to license the use of its FairPlay DRM to companies seeking iPod compatibility.
Songs bought through the iTunes Music Store are encrypted using FairPlay, which works only with the iPod. In addition, the iPod doesnit support DRM technologies used by other services, like Windows Media Audio and RealNetworksi Helix technology.
But the RealNetworks technology has apparently broken through Appleis technology using reverse engineering to gain the ability to play its music files on an iPod. RealNetworks did not seek permission from Apple before releasing the software.
In April, RealNetworks chief executive Rob Glaser sent an e-mail to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, asking him to license Appleis Fairplay. Jobs never replied telling analyst at the time that Appleis dominance in the market gave it little reason to partner with RealNetworks or anyone else.
The controversial move could trigger legal action by Apple after it tears apart the RealNetworks code of the new technology called Harmony to figure out if it legally violates any copyright. Mr. Glaser said his company had not violated any of Appleis intellectual property rights. "We have excellent lawyers and they assure me that we are 100% within all of the legal precedents and the letter and spirit of all laws," Mr. Glaser told the The Wall Street Journal.
As for Mac users, the Real announcement could offer additional choice down the road of where to buy music which has been unavailable until now. People familiar with the RealNetworks technology tell The Mac Observer RealNetworks could decide to release a new version of RealPlayer for Mac in the future that would allow Mac users to buy songs at 99 cents each from Realis Rhapsody music service and play them on their Mac or on their iPod. Initially, Real will only offer an iPod compatible vesion of RealPlayer for Windows users. RealNetworks has made no announcement that it plans at this time to release a new Mac version of RealPlayer to offer such compatibility.
"A long time from now, people will look back at our announcement and say it was a great benefit for Apple," Mr. Glaser told The New York Times.
In an interview with the The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Glaser said he feels the best way for everyone to reap the benefits of digital music distribution is for all companies to have one, uniform standard, instead of different standards from RealNetworks, Microsoft, Sony and Apple, to name a few.
"Thereis a format war. Itis clear to us youire not going to get past the early-adopter phase unless you solve that problem," Mr. Glaser told WSJ.
An Apple spokesperson had no comment on the Real announcement.