April 26, 2005 12:35 PM PDT

RealNetworks offers free songs for new service

Internet multimedia company RealNetworks has overhauled its Rhapsody digital music service, in a high-profile launch aimed at regaining ground lost to Apple Computer's iTunes.

Eschewing the format wars that have marked the digital music business--and much of RealNetworks' own past--the company is tapping Microsoft for technology that allows songs to be transferred to some MP3 players. Until recently, most monthly music subscription services barred songs from being transferred from a computer to a portable device.

But RealNetworks is also extending a bridge to cost-conscious digital music newcomers, offering people the ability to listen to 25 songs a month without paying anything at all.

News.context

What's new:
RealNetworks has released an updated version of Rhapsody that lets people listen to 25 songs a month without paying anything at all, a move meant to challenge Apple's iTunes.

Bottom line:
The Net multimedia company has tapped rival Microsoft for technology that allows songs to be shifted to MP3 players, eschewing the format wars that have marked the digital music business.

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"We believe that once consumers experience Rhapsody and share it with their friends, many people will upgrade," RealNetworks Chief Executive Officer Rob Glaser said in a statement Tuesday. "We thank our partners in the music industry who worked closely with us to create an innovative...approach that works for both the industry and consumers."

Consumer response to the new service is critical for the company, which has built its broader Net multimedia business around music and downloadable games, and which looks to Rhapsody as the centerpiece of those businesses.

RealNetworks isn't alone in making a high-stakes bet on music. Apple itself has seen its fortunes soar on the back of iPod sales, aided in part by its successful iTunes online music stores. Software company Roxio last year sold all parts of its business not dedicated to online music, and changed its name altogether to Napster, to focus on the music business.

The new release of Rhapsody marks the first time that RealNetworks has substantially revised the program since buying it in April 2003 along with San Francisco company Listen.com. Since that time, the company has seen steady growth, announcing last week that it had 1 million subscribers to its music products, which also include a premium Net radio service.

CNET Reviews
Meet the players
Which devices will be compatible with the revamped Rhapsody? Here's a list.

The previous version of Rhapsody, despite its critical plaudits, was more limited than other services in some ways. Based on streaming media technology, it required a computer to be connected to the Internet at all times.

Rival subscription services from Napster and Microsoft allowed downloads of songs, so that they could be played offline.

The new version of Rhapsody allows that kind of ordinary download, but also takes advantage of Microsoft's "Janus" technology, a digital rights management tool that has enabled the

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9 comments

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Been saying it all along.
I've been saying it for more than a year... DRM is the key to digital media success. After Real attackes Microsoft in multiple venues for a plethora of self-inflicted shortcomings, they are now PAYING Microsoft for DRM technology. Just a sec...

<HAHAHAHA! HAHAAAA! HAAA! HAAAHAHAHA!>>

ahh... that felt good. Real always tried to claim that they had superior technology, and that their failure to grow was based upon unfair competition. Now they must license technology from their competitors just to stay in business. What a hoot! (although I still won't touch their products)
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You're a geek!
nm
Posted by ivand67 (40 comments )
Link Flag
Hah!
I always get a kick out of your messages. Agree or disagree, they are always interesting.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
Link Flag
As someone said elsewhere....
.... I didn't know that Real was still around. Now that I know they
are, I still don't care. At best, Real comes in sixth in a three way
race.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Anyone can say I want to compete with iTunes
But successful or not is another issue :) Anyway I don't see any reason to download the huge, buggy, and ad-rich Real Player. iTunes is ad-free, and it is a free download. The choice is clear :)
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RealNetworks Rhapsody Software Is No Good
Two hours later and this [edited] software still does not work. They should be paying ME to use this so called software. To wit:

1) Downloaded and ran Setup
2) Windows says software is unsigned, cannot verify publisher. Do I really want to install?
3) At the 70% mark install stops, says DRM module failed.
4) Try reinstall to no avail
5) Thinking there may be a proxy issue (even though I told it I have a proxy), dial up my ISP to get a direct connection and start install again
6) Install completes to 100%, but dialog box does not close
7) Look at traffic stats from dialer. Byte count is increasing. 30 minutes and 8 megs later, install boxes closes. Install says I must now reboot.
8) Launch Rhapsody. Program briefly flashes startup screen then terminates with "Initialization failed."
9) Go to Rhapsody support site. Hints like make sure Flash 7 is installed, make sure Windows Mediaplayer 10 is installed, make sure listen.com is in Internet Explorer trusted zone, etc.
10) Fully compliant, tried everything, and software still terminates with initialization error. No debug info at all in Event Log or anywhere else.

Who wrote this software? Bulgarians? Why does it need every other 3rd party media software, including competitors, to run? Why can't Realplayer just access Listen.com directly? Why do I need another 28 megs of redundant software to have to deal with? Why can't I use Firefox, I hate IE? Why do I need Flash? Why is there no useful debugging info?

To RealNetworks: Guys, you are dead meat. Give it up, cash in your stock, and retire to Boca.

Keith
www.techcando.com
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good Point....
Also check your site the links on the home page (Bottom to services.htm) point to the wrong directory... HTH's get you more $$$$... I would only ask for my 0%! lol

Damn I hate being a nosey little beotch!

80)
Posted by (14 comments )
Link Flag
Real = Spyware
Once a company decides to use spyware to further its goals, you can never trust anything from that company again. With obscene DRM as a new tool in getting information from its users, Real looks to be on a new tear.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I trust MSFT more than Real
Real sucks! I also agree about the spywware message. They had their oppurtunity but failed. I'll never have Real on my system again.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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