RealTime IT News

Rhapsody in MP3

RealNetworks announced a partnership with SanDisk to create a digital music player highlighting the company's Rhapsody subscription music service.

The companies said the Sansa Rhapsody, a version of SanDisk's e200 Flash-based MP3 player, will include RealNetworks technology and 32 hours of pre-loaded music.

The companies refused to disclose pricing for the product, which will be available in time for the holiday-buying period.

In August, SanDisk unveiled the 8GB Sansa 280, able to hold 2,000 songs with twice the storage of Apple's iPod Nano.

Rhapsody DNA, the technology used in the new player, replaces Microsoft's digital rights management (DRM) software.

The Sansa Rhapsody will be based on SanDisk's e200 Series MP3 players.
Source: SanDisk

Combining RealNetworks' subscription service with Real's DRM, provides listeners a smoother experience, Real spokesperson Ronda Scott told internetnews.com.

Last year, Real settled for $761 million an antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft.

The lawsuit charged the software maker damaged RealNetworks by limiting choice in digital media players.

The new player includes personalization features allowing the service to suggest music based on a user's listening favorites, said Scott.

The arrangement "puts the celestial jukebox into the consumer's pocket," Rob Glaser, RealNetworks chairman and CEO said in a statement.

Subscribers to Real's Rhapsody Unlimited service can play an unlimited number of songs as long as you pay the $9.99 monthly fee. Scott refused to say how much the new device will cost.

While Real's subscription-based service hasn't caught fire, according to Ted Schadler, analyst with Forrester Research, Microsoft's decision to enter the online music arena with the Zune has "annoyed the heck" out of the software giant's partners.

"This was not an unexpected reaction from Real and the hardware manufacturers," said Mike McGuire of Gartner.

With many digital music early adopters already having selected an online service and hardware platform, companies now must attract those new to digital music.

"Now its about all those people buying shiny plastic discs," McGuire said.

Real was talking with SanDisk months before the Microsoft announcement, said Scott. However, Real is just the latest company to adopt Apple's model of controlling end-to-end the digital music experience.

Today's partnership with SanDisk is just the latest in a series of deals Real is using to widen its distribution, according to Schadler.

Sonos is another hardware maker partnering with Real. The Sonos ZonePlayer devices, which take music from your PC and pipe it to your stereo via Wi-Fi, last week announced it would integrate Rhapsody technology into its music system.

Real last week acquired for $350 million WiderThan, a South Korean-based provider of digital music and other mobile entertainment to carriers, including Verizon and T-Mobile in the U.S.