RealNetworks announced this morning that it has essentially reverse-engineered Apple Computer's FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) scheme. RealNetworks' Harmony Technology will let customers load songs purchased from the RealNetworks RealPlayer Music Store onto Apple's successful but closed iPod portable audio player.
Apple refused to share the technical information RealNetworks needed to make this translation possible; Apple CEO Steve Jobs refused repeated requests from RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser. Apparently, RealNetworks got tired of waiting.
RealNetworks' Harmony Technology is a DRM-translation system that the company says will help customers securely transfer legally purchased music to all of today's popular secure music devices, including the iPod. "Compatibility is key to bringing digital music to the masses," Glaser said. "Before Harmony, consumers buying digital music got locked in to a specific kind of portable player. Harmony changes all that. Thanks to Harmony, consumers don't have to worry about technology when buying music. Now anyone can buy music, move it to their favorite portable device, and it will just work, just like DVD and CDs work."
Harmony Technology breaks the lock-in that has been a leading factor in the success of the Apple iTunes Music Store. The iPod outsells other players by a wide margin, and iPod customers have been forced to use Apple's online music store because the iPod supports only the company's Protected Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format. Now iPod owners will be able to purchase music from the RealPlayer Music Store, which uses a much higher-quality format--192Kbps RealAudio 10 AAC.
Tomorrow, RealNetworks will demonstrate the Harmony Technology for the first time, and the company will ship a beta version of the RealPlayer 10.5 software, which supports the technology, soon. Later this year, RealNetworks will also include the Harmony Technology in other products, including the RHAPSODY subscription service.