Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Rob Glaser @ /.

My thoughts on: Slashdot | Rob Glaser Responds, Talks Up Real Networks

When Rob says he's "working on it" in regards to paid services for Linux users, I'd bet dollars to donuts that he is NOT talking of Rhapsody, Listen.com, or the Real Music Store. More than likely, he means they are looking into offering Linux users the same two subscription services they offer Mac OS X users - SuperPass & RadioPass. Since there is no actual downloading or burning of content involved, but merely password authentication (to make sure only paying customers are accessing the service) and perhaps an integrated browser (which could easily be provided on Linux with KHTML or Gecko), it would be relatively simple to implement the two services I mention.
More than likely, the big issue is support; I think that's Real's biggest headache when it comes to offering services on Linux. The only thing I can suggest to them, is hope that their community can help out - perhaps even giving free subscriptions to certain influential and/or helpful members of the Helix Community so that they can help debug the services and support users on an unofficial basis.

Honestly though, I have ended up with these impressions:
A. Rhapsody/Listen.com ($10/m all you can eat) is not available on non-Windows platforms because it uses Windows Media DRM that simply isn't supported anywhere else. They plan to move this service to Harmony-flavored DRM at some point in the future (or so I have gathered by STFW) and at that point, (since Real will be using its own in-house DRM layer) it will probably be much easier to implement Rhapsody on other platforms.

B. Real Music Store (99c/song ownership) is not available on other platforms because they wanted to be as expedient as possible in getting it out the door. I get the impression that as long as it took them to figure out how to get into the iPod, they wanted to start making money based on that knowledge ASAP. They felt the most expedient way to do this involved supporting only Windows for now, and running some crazy half-price sale. Whether that will prove profitable in the long run is anyone's guess.
I suspect that since it does use their own in-house DRM, Real Music Store may possibly show up at least on the Mac before Rhapsody does. I also think that once they can port the DRM code, Real should be able to offer CD burning right away to both Mac and Linux users by taking advantage of support built into each OS. Supporting any type of MP3 player at all will probably take longer, but again, I'd expect at least iPod & Palm support on non-Windows platforms at some point. The real sticking point here is that since Harmony is relying on Windows Media DRM to put its music onto a large percentage of players, it will only be able to support loading those players with encrypted music on Windows OSes; since the iPod & Palm (as well as one unit from Creative, IIRC) rely on Real's own code to load encrypted music, that will be much more easily ported to alternative OSes.

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