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SanDisk, RealNetworks join handscomment: 9 | Monday, September 18 (2006) 08:16AM | Posted by Robert Sinke
Personally, I still find it hard to not-associate RealNetworks with a little thing called "RealPlayer" - however, the company has provided a worthy addition to the spectrum of "legal download" services quite a while ago, namely the rental-based "Real Rhapsody". Although it's not as popular as Apple's iTunes Music Store in terms of brand recognition, RR proved to be easy to use & good-looking; plus there's a large selection of tracks to choose from nowadays. Well, if you're an American, that is - we Europeans get diddly-squat, as usual.
Enter SanDisk, the ever-growing player in the DAP industry. From zilch to second on America's hit list in a mere 18 months time, and ready to expand beyond their current market share. These guys have been looking at last week's announcements (new iPods, iTunes 7 and Microsoft's Zune) and probably decided (a while ago) that a combination of decent hardware and non-exploding music download service would work out swell for them. So now we're waiting for something called the "Sansa Rhapsody". Well, it's just an Sansa e2x0; but one that's fine-tuned to operate smoothly under Rhapsody's umbrella.
Under the deal, RealNetworks and SanDisk plan to release the Sansa Rhapsody, a portable music player based on SanDisk's e200. The companies said they expected the gadget to be available in time for the holidays, but they would not say exactly how much it will cost.
The player will come pre-loaded with hundreds of songs from musicians such as the Dixie Chicks and Jessica Simpson, as part of a free trial of RealNetworks' Rhapsody To Go subscription service. Anyone who buys or already has the music service will then be able to use the gadget to listen to nearly all of the songs available through the core Rhapsody service.
RealNetworks is bypassing the "Microsoft step" here, taking care of Digital Rights Management themselves.
"The fact that one company was making the player, one company was making the software and a third company was making the service meant it was not seamless," said Dan Sheeran, senior vice president of music for Seattle-based RealNetworks.
The Sansa Rhapsody will use RealNetworks' own technology for managing digital rights, which RealNetworks says will work more smoothly and allow the company to offer more bells and whistles. The gadget's release also will coincide with an update of the Rhapsody service.
Apple, Microsoft and "the new kid in town", Sandisk... interesting bunch. Let's see where things will go from here.
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