Real’s Entry Into Music eTailing [11:42 pm]
With some truly striking characteristics — as in weird: Real to launch song store. Is this a backlash against Microsoft’s developing WMA codec hegemony, or a reflection of some kind of record industry perception that ACC + Helix will solve some of the woes of DRM?
Sources said the new store will be based on the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format–as are the songs in Apple’s rival service–but wrapped in RealNetworks’ own Helix digital rights management technology.
[...] The release of RealNetworks’ new service highlights increasing fragmentation in the online music market, in which different companies continue to adopt incompatible copy-protection mechanisms, each of which in turn are supported inconsistently by different portable music players.
For a song to play on a digital device, the gadget must both be able to play the underlying music format and to decode any proprietary content locks that protect against unauthorized copying. For example, both RealNetworks and iTunes will distribute songs encoded in the AAC format, but Apple’s iPod will not be able to play Helix-wrapped songs unless Apple licenses that technology.
Along with Real, Apple, Microsoft and Sony all offer or plan to offer music wrapped in their own proprietary anticopying technologies. Most of the other song stores proliferating online, including Napster, MusicNow and Musicmatch, use Microsoft’s digital audio format.
However, RealNetworks’ adoption of the AAC format does add momentum to a standard that many see as the logical competitor to Microsoft’s proprietary Windows Media technology.