Listen.com drops Microsoft for RealNetworks

Listen.com will replace the Microsoft technology it uses for its Rhapsody online music service with RealNetworks Inc.'s technology, Listen.com said Wednesday after receiving a minority investment from RealNetworks.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, could also be the first sign of love between Rhapsody and the competing MusicNet online music service, in which Seattle-based RealNetworks has a significant stake. Listen.com of San Francisco will explore working with RealNetworks on future services, it said in a statement.

Listen.com will use RealNetworks' Helix software to offer online music to its subscribers instead of the Microsoft Windows Media technology it uses today. Also, the deal is intended to help Listen.com expand its reach beyond the PC onto a user's home stereo system, the company said.

Listen.com has already cut deals with several consumer electronics companies on products that make Rhapsody available on the home stereo. Rhapsody offers streaming music as well as music downloads and CD burning options. The service offers over 285,000 songs from all major labels and is available in the U.S. only from US$4.95 a month.

Music subscription services such as Rhapsody and MusicNet are the recording industry's answer to renegade file-swapping services such as Kazaa and Morpheus. However, many users say the paid services are too expensive and have too many restrictions when it comes to downloading and recording tracks onto a CD. File-swapping services allow free and unlimited downloading of songs, which the recording industry compares to stealing.

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