Sandisk, RealNetworks partner on iPod/iTunes rival

SanDisk will start selling Sansa music players that are tightly integrated with the RealNeworks Rhapsody digital music offering.

RealNetworks is hoping to make a stronger push into the portable digital music market with the introduction of Sandisk's Sansa music players that come bundled with RealNetworks Rhapsody music service.

The new offering, announced on Monday and to be available only in the U.S., means that Real and Sandisk join Apple Computer and Microsoft as providers of music services that are closely tied to specific devices. Just last week Microsoft revealed details of Zune, which will link a new portable player to a Microsoft digital music store.

As part of the deal, the Sansa e200 series of portable music players will come preloaded with software supporting the Rhapsody service. Subscribers to the service pay a monthly fee to listen to any song in the Rhapsody database. They can download songs to their PCs and transfer them to the digital music player.

If users cancel their subscription, the next time they connect to the Internet they'll synch with Rhapsody, which will delete the songs from the music player and their PCs. Anyone can buy individual tracks from Rhapsody and those songs won't be deleted for customers who cancel their subscriptions.

Rhapsody To Go customers can already transfer music onto portable players but this will be the first time that a device will come preloaded with Real software to ease the song transfer.

The service on the Sansa device will also include some new capabilities, including automatic downloads of songs based on user preferences.

Real is using its own Helix digital rights management rather than Microsoft's PlaysForSure offering, although the devices will support the Microsoft technology.

"This shows how the marketplace is slowly adjusting to Microsoft becoming a competitor," said Mark Mulligan, an analyst with Jupiter Research.

Many portable music manufacturers and digital music stores have used Microsoft's digital rights management software and the Windows Media platform but their relationships with Microsoft may be tested since the introduction of Zune.

"There's going to be significant amounts of shifting of alliances because what Microsoft has done with Zune is become an aggressive competitor with lots of people who were their clients who use Windows Media," he said.

The announcement from Real also indicates that although the industry has become increasingly critical of Apple's policy of tying iTunes customers exclusively to its own iPod music players, competitors are emulating the tactic.

Still, just because Microsoft and Real have now introduced similar concepts doesn't mean that such close bundles will become the only choice in the future, Mulligan said. That's clear because the Real and Sandisk relationship isn't exclusive, meaning that Sansa users won't be limited to only using Rhapsody while Real said it plans to form similar relationships with other music player makers.

Also, if the music stores strike too many relationships with music players makers, the value of the close tie-in drops. "You can only do that so many times before it becomes meaningless," Mulligan said.

Real said the Sansa offering will become available later this year. The companies did not reveal pricing for end users.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?