More on Rhapsody

Apropos of my post earlier this week: Postplay reports that Real is planning a major announcement
for later this month, likely about a new version of Rhapsody and/or the launch of a
portable subscription service. If it’s anything less than that, the
press release hype will appear even more ridiculous. From what I had
read earlier, Real was looking to get a portable subscription service
out by the end of the year, viewing that market as really a year away,
but perhaps they’re pushing harder now that Napster is getting some
uptake.  It will be interesting to see if they adopt Janus DRM as
well.  Though it went largely unnoticed amidst the introduction of Harmony, Real also chose to allow
transcoding to WMA from the Helix-DRM-locked AAC files sold by the Real
Music Store  It also started selling songs in WMA format.  So offering a portable subscription via WMA would be
another interesting step away from using their own proprietary formats.

Updated, 5/20: I stand corrected by Bill Rosenblatt of DRMWatch.  This post originally said that “they didn’t outright sell the songs in WMA
format.” Apparently, Real does sell tracks in WMA. Thanks, Bill.

One Response to “More on Rhapsody”

  1. Bill Rosenblatt
    April 20th, 2005 | 12:35 pm

    On the contrary, Real does sell WMA format tracks “outright” on RealPlayer Music Store. (There is no effective difference between transcoding from RealAudio/HelixDRM to WMA/WMDSRM and encoding directly to WMA/WMDRM, other than that doing the latter is a waste of effort and results in an inferior sounding file. In both cases you are still using the WMA codec and packaging it in WMDRM.) MSFT allows anyone to license, at no cost, its WMDRM packaging software. Anyone can obtain the license from MSFT’s website. It does have some T&C’s, of course, but nothing that would prevent someone like Real from launching a service based on the technology, which of course is precisely what MSFT likes to see happen.

    I don’t know what Real is going to announce next week either, but it would not surprise me at all that it’s a portable subscription service based on WMA and WMDRM. First of all, it is highly possible (though I don’t know for sure) that Rhapsody uses neither RealAudio nor HelixDRM. Real keeps this quiet, and remember that Rhapsody existed before Real acquired it from Listen.com. Secondly, Real is in the process of abandoning its server technology – they have already made much of it available under open source license. Real is a service provider – that’s where their business is headed. Just as Sun now offers PCs with Intel chips that can run Windows, I believe that Real is going to give up its platform technology and throw its lot in with MSFT.