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.

Sansa

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.

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