John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Real to Apple: From Hell's Heart, I Stab at Thee!

In a 2004 email to Steve Jobs, RealNetworks (RNWK) CEO Rob Glaser asked the Apple (AAPL) CEO to consider a “tactical alliance” with his company. License us your Fairplay digital-rights management system, allow our customers to play their digital music collections on the iPod, wrote Glaser, and we’ll make the iPod our primary device for the RealNetworks store and for RealPlayer software.

It was an astonishing offer at the time, especially coming from Glaser, who had been a vocal critic of Apple and its decision to make digital music sold through its iTunes store playable only on iPod (“I bought an iPod and can only shop at one store,” Glaser once said. “What is this? The Soviet Union?”)

But it was an offer that Jobs found unappealing. The Apple CEO rebuffed Glaser, declining even to meet with him over lunch to discuss it.

Glaser, of course, took it poorly and spent the next few years slagging Apple and Jobs for declining the partnership. “We think Apple Computer, and Steve personally, are making a mistake by making the software proprietary,” Glaser said at the Digital Living Conference in 2005. “There’s no reason we should penalize Apple customers for Steve’s pigheadeness.”

Course, in the end Real didn’t penalize Apple’s customers. Apple’s customers penalized Real. And today Apple’s iTunes is the largest music retailer in the states. And Real? Well, Real’s “embracing” the iPod.

Funny how that worked out.

This morning the company announced a new MP3 store whose unprotected music files can be played anywhere–even on an iPod. Like Apple’s iTunes, the Rhapsody MP3 Store offers music from all four major music labels at 99 cents per track, or $9.99 for an album. Over five million songs will be made available, at 256k-bit rates. Visitors can preview them in their entirety instead of the 30-second samples offered by iTunes and the like. And, if they’re Verizon (VZ) subscribers, they can download music directly to their phones with the company’s V CAST Music with Rhapsody service.

“We’re no longer competing with the iPod,” said Rhapsody Vice President Neil Smith. “We’re embracing it.”

Pigheadeness, be damned.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik