Apple Accuses RealNetworks of Hacking The iPodís Software 
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Written by Diane Sherwin   
Wednesday, 04 August 2004

Apple was shocked by the recent release of software by RealNetworks that allows users to download tracks from RealNetworks’ RealPlayer store that can be played on iPods.

Before RealNetworks’ RealPlayer, the only portable MP3 player that could play music purchased from iTunes was the Apple iPod. Apple refused to license its technology to other companies, which forced consumers to purchase iPods if they wanted to play songs downloaded off iTunes on a portable player. This move could be pointed to as one of the many things that contributed to iPod’s popularity as iPods sales have matched Macintosh sales in the last year.

When RealNetworks released RealPlayer and flaunted the music’s compatibility with iPods, Apple released a statement condemning RealNetworks’ “hacker tactics.” RealNetworks on the other hand said that its engineers used public knowledge to develop the Harmony technology that is used in RealPlayer, and are merely trying to develop the technology to give consumers the freedom to pay once and play forever.

When RealPlayer tracks are downloaded, RealPlayer detects what hardware the song will be played on, and will change the song format accordingly. In addition to the iPod, songs downloaded from RealPlayer can be played on digital music players from Creative, Rio, iRiver and more.

RealNetworks claims that the fundamental difference between iTunes and RealPlayer is the content. But how can you make an mp3 file unique? You can’t. This means that the exclusive content is what makes the two services unique.

Apple says “when we update our iPod software… it is highly likely that Real’s Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.”

It is possible that RealNetworks might have picked a fight that they can’t win. But instead of wasting time on making software compatible, maybe Apple should take some time and further develop iTunes with more exclusives and reasons to be loyal, which would in turn increase the popularity of legal downloads. Apple is well positioned to continue the digital music movement but needs to be sure to keep fresh and unique content coming.

Source: VH1

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