Rhapsody for iPhone: RealNetworks Tweaks Apple's Tail

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on August 24, 2009

Reflecting the personality of its combative CEO, Rob Glaser, RealNetworks has never been a company to shrink from a fight. Over the years, it has gone head-to-head with Microsoft, Apple, the record industry, and most recently with RealDVD, the movie studios. But its latest challenge to Apple shows a sense of strategic timing hat has been missing from some past Real moves.

As described by my colleague Arik Hesseldahl, Real has sent the iTunes App Store a free app that would bring the $15-a-month Rhapsody subscription music service to the iPhone.

A month ago, I suspect Apple would have rejected Rhapsody out of hand. Apple has been ruthless about blocking apps that competed with its own offerings and Rhapsody definitely competes with iTunes music. Furthermore, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has an undisguised loathing for subscription music services that he claims Apple's customers neither need nor want.

But Apple's rejection of the Google Voice telephony app has focused all sorts of unwelcome attention, including a Federal Communications Commission inquiry, on the opaque process by which offerings are approved or rejected. Though Apple and Jobs usually have no problem ignoring public opinion, the heat that might result from a blatant rejection of a competitor's product might be more than they might care to handle right now.

Real got into a major dustup with Apple in 2004. I came up with a version of its Helix digital rights manager that would allow songs sold by its music store to be played on iPods (back then, the idea of legal downloads of DRM-free music was still a distant dream.) apple quickly revised iPods' software to block the Real content. Apple won that round pretty easily, but the new tussle could be tougher.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs.businessweek.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/

Reader Comments

Phil

August 24, 2009 02:16 PM

As an iPhone user, and Apple customer, and a Rhapsody subscriber, I want Mr. Jobs to know that I think music subscription services are clearly the wave of the future. That is the way it is with every other medium, why should music be any different?

4robster

August 24, 2009 02:31 PM

"Real has sent the iTunes App Store a free add"... do you mean a free app?

dave

August 24, 2009 03:11 PM

Why would this be turned down?

There are other subscription service apps on the iPhone.

The SiriusXM app, while a major flop, is a subscription service app that is free.

Steve Wildstrom

August 24, 2009 04:52 PM

@Dave--SiriusXM isn't a subscription music service in the same sense; it's a subscrition broadcast servioe meaning you can only listen to whatever they happen to be playing on any given channel at that time.

Also, SiriusXM is only free is you are already an online subscriber; i.e., the app is free but you have to pay for the service one way or another. Rhapsody would be the same sort of deal.

joeliu58

August 24, 2009 08:31 PM

Apple could charge 30% of the subscription; and see how Rhapsody will response. Ha! Ha! Why should Apple provide free portal/advertisement for Real Network? App store should be like any online store; and it should get a cut of all profit made!

Bill

September 1, 2009 09:30 AM

It is Apple's proprietary nature that has kept me turned off from buying an iPod or an iPhone. I have no interest in being forced to only use services provided by the almighty Apple. Since, I already have Rhapsody, which integrates with my Sonos system, being forced to use iTunes would just anger me each time I listened to a song...

If Apple can get over themselves, I would seriously consider an iPhone

Post a comment

 

About

BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

Categories

 

BW Mall - Sponsored Links

Buy a link now!