RealNetworks offers Harmony for music devices

Hailing the move as one that brings choice to online music services users, RealNetworks has introduced software that lets songs downloaded from its own music store be played on a variety of devices, essentially breaking Apple's proprietary grip on its market-leading iPod music player.

The new software, called Harmony, will be incorporated into RealPlayer 10.5, which will now go into beta test mode. Harmony will let users download songs from the RealPlayer Music Store into more than 70 music player devices, including the iPod and iPod mini, and products from Creative Labs, Dell, Gateway and Samsung.

Harmony is designed to support any device that uses the Apple FairPlay DRM (digital rights management) technology, the Microsoft Windows Media Audio DRM or the RealNetworks Helix DRM, according to Sean Ryan, RealNetworks' vice-president of music services.

However, it's the ability to let RealPlayer Music Store tunes be played on the market-dominant iPod that is sure to arouse the most interest. Songs bought from Apple's iTunes are encrypted with the company's FairPlay DRM, which works only with the iPod, and Apple has not licensed the technology to other companies seeking compatibility with the music device.

RealNetworks did not work with Apple on Harmony, Ryan said.

In fact, Apple never responded to the offer several months ago from of Rob Glaser, RealNetworks founder and chief executive officer, to work with Apple.

Apple's integrated music service, comprising its iTunes Music Store, its DRM and the iPod, has made it the number-one online music distributor and catapulted the iPod into the leadership position in the player market, according to analysts.

The company has been protective of its service so far, and its licensing agreement prohibits iPod users from reverse engineering or otherwise attempting to derive the source code of its software.

But RealNetworks' Ryan said that the company did not reverse engineer Apple code.

"Reverse engineering is a misleading legal term," Ryan said. "It implies a method of looking at the software and seeing how it's built. We looked at publicly available data moving between the user and the iPod. We have very smart engineers that have been working on DRM for a long time."

"The RealNetworks software might be attractive if they have exclusive content not available though Apple....but even so, why would an iPod owner bother to switch devices," Deal said, considering that RealNetworks Music Store tunes can be played on iPods.

In addition, if it turns out that RealNetworks does offer a wider range of content that Apple, Apple will likely respond positively, Deal said. "Apple has been responsive to customer demand so far, making the iPod compatible with Windows," he pointed out.

The RealNetworks announcement is nevertheless positive for the company and the online music industry, according to Deal. "RealNetworks will attract people interested in having a choice, and it might make people feel safer about their music choices."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Marc Ferranti

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?