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Apple and Real?

Apr 15, 20042 mins
Data Center

The New York Times is reporting that RealNetworks has made overtures to Apple to get the latter to open up the FairPlay DRM system that protects iTunes-purchased content. Currently, the only device that can play the protected content is the iPod, naturally. Real recently began supporting the same encoding format (AAC) as Apple, but the two are still incompatible because of the FairPlay DRM. Real argues that by joining forces with Apple, it could help derail Microsoft’s locomotive.

In his message, which was obtained by The New York Times from a person close to Apple, Mr. Glaser asked Mr. Jobs to consider licensing Apple’s Fairplay digital rights management system to RealNetworks to permit customers of the RealNetworks music service to play their digital music collections on iPod players.

In exchange, RealNetworks would make the iPod its primary device for the RealNetworks store and for the RealPlayer software.

This makes perfect sense to me. But, the Times also reports that if Apple rebuffs (which it is likely to do), Glaser threatened to join forces with Microsoft and begin supporting the competing WMA format.

We are seeing very interesting opportunities to switch to WMA,” Mr. Glaser wrote. “Instinctively I don’t want to do it because I think it leads to all kinds of complexities in terms of giving Microsoft too much long-term market momentum.”

Given that Real and Microsoft are not on the friendliest of terms, it’s doubtful such an agreement would happen, but it’s still an interesting ploy by Glaser. Apple would be smart to open FairPlay to Real. Apple doesn’t make its money on iTunes, but it does on iPod sales.