RealNetworks' Rinse Offers a Tune-Up For iTunes

Published on April 25, 2011
by Peter Kafka

RealNetworks used to try to compete with Apple. Now it’s in the Apple accessories business.

The software company is rolling out Rinse, a $39 program that promises to “seamlessly organize and repair your iTunes music library”.

The idea is that most iTunes users’ collections are full of music they didn’t buy from Apple’s digital store, and are very often mislabeled, or not labeled at all. Real says Rinse can fix that, with software that can also “find the matching artwork, remove duplicates and clean things up.”

I’m not clear how this differs dramatically from features iTunes already offers, especially since both iTunes and Rinse rely on the CDDB database owned by Sony’s Gracenote to identify songs.

But I took Rinse for a spin yesterday and found that it could find some songs in my collection that had previously been mislabeled–while it was stumped by some others.

Rinse looks like a product aimed a subset of a subset: iTunes power users who care about the way their collection looks and works–and who have the time to do something about it.

That said, it’s worth noting that if Apple starts moving iTunes to the cloud, identifying exactly what’s on your hard drive may become much more important to you and to Apple.

That will be particularly true if Apple uses a “scan-and-match” technology, which won’t actually make copies of your files, but simply provide a single master copy that many song owners can access remotely.

In any event, Rinse is a good example of Real’s overall strategy shift. As Geekwire, which tracked down Rinse over the weekend, notes: “The program is part of the Seattle technology company‚Äôs bid to reinvent itself by providing technologies for managing and distributing digital media–shifting away from being an actual content provider.”

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