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Update: Apple “stunned” at RealNetworks’ hacker tactics

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Thursday, July 29, 2004
News Categories: iTunes

RealNetworks has responded to Apple’s statement (below) saying “consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the DMCA are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software. We remain fully committed to Harmony and to giving millions of consumers who own portable music devices, including the Apple iPod, choice and compatibility.

Harmony follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility. There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq. Harmony creates a way to lock content from Real’s music store in a way that is compatible with the iPod, Windows Media DRM devices, and Helix DRM devices. Harmony technology does not remove or disable any digital rights management system.”

Apple today released a statement in response to RealNetworks’ recent announcement that they had created a method to offer iPod-compatible song downloads through its new Harmony software. “We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real’s Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.”

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Comments

41

I personally think that what Real has done is a good thing for 3 reasons:

1 - It just might convince Apple to up the quality of iTMS downloads. I personally won’t listen to anything under 160kps so that is one reason I don’t use iTMS (that and I’m in Australia where it doesn’t work).

2 - Choice. I agree that Real’s software is evil, but the fact that there’s an alternative is a good thing. If you buy something, you should be able to do anything you want with it, you shouldn’t be forced to use any particular software and now you don’t have to use iTunes at all if you don’t want to.

3 - If they released a firmware update that added new anti-Real protection to all iPods, then they might as well as add some of the newer features to older iPods in the process.

If I could, I would seriously discourage Apple from trying to lock Real files out of iPods with future firmware updates. Real seem committed to Harmony, which means any action by Apple will be met with action by Real. Result? Both companies wasting resources trying to outwit the other, when they should be spending it improvements.

Posted by praenuntius in Canberra, Australia on July 29, 2004 at 9:56 PM (PDT)

42

acemilo,

Your reply is flawed.  Play stations and Game Cubes can’t play Xbox games.

Really, you guys.  There is nothing wrong with Apple keeping their system closed.  You picked the ipod as your player.  You knew what it could and could not do.  Knowing this, why do you think Apple has to open things up?

Only if, and thats a huge IF, Apple has a monopoly on music, then I’ll listen to your complaints.  Apple doesn’t even come close to having a monopoly on music.  Heck, they sold 100 million songs.  Do some research and you’ll see that’s nothing compared to all the music sold in the world.

Open source people:  if you don’t like the way Apple does it, don’t buy it.  Things are really this simple.

Not that I want to see it happen but, what are you guys going to say if Microsoft has a monopoly on music?

Posted by ipeddler on July 29, 2004 at 10:09 PM (PDT)

43

One more note:  You do have a choice.  Actually 4 choices.

1.  Go with Apples system.
2.  Go with Microsofts system (Napster, Music Match, etc.)
3.  Go with Sony
4.  Buy a Cd and rip to go on your mp3 of choice.

There you go.  No more ######## about how youdon’t have a choice.

Posted by ipeddler on July 29, 2004 at 10:19 PM (PDT)

44

Well, in my humble opinion apple could be so nervous about this because it could one day work the other way around. People (for instance a manufacturer of a concurring Digital Music Player) could come up with a way to convert Protected AAC’s into Protected WMA’s. ITMS is made to - in the end - sell iPods. Now if I can pick any device to play my AAC’s to, that would really bring sales down… IIRC ITMS isn’t making profit yet. This is the only I could think about why apple is so fed up with this.
As for personal choice : The Buy it or leave it argument doesn’t count for me. I figure that almost everybody on this board use something like EphPod, XPlay, Sharepod, etc. We all love to enhance the abilities of our little gadgets with third-party accessoire. What’s the big deal ? I bought an iPod, I didn’t marry it. If I like to use with another software, I want to have the choice (although Real is a really bad choice…). Personally, I’ll stick to ITunes, IMTS and so on, because I prefer soft- and hardware being tuned to work perfectly together. Now this is something real can never offer to iPod-Users and hence, most people who invested 250 or more bucks into this thing will stick with iTunes, i am sure.

Just my 0.02 $

Posted by Christoph on July 29, 2004 at 11:37 PM (PDT)

45

Theres a large amount of hypocrisy at work here.

Real have reverse engineered Apple’s system so that their store works with the market leading portable music player.

Apple constantly use reverse engineering in their products own:

Appleworks and Keynote use reverse engineered Microsoft Office tech so they can read and write Microsoft Office files (thanks to Dataviz)

Sharing files between OS X & Windows computers across a network works thanks to the reverse engineering efforts of the Samba team.

In cases where apple is not offering the market leading product (such as office suites) they use reverse engineering of their competitors products to get compatibility. Now they have a product that dominates the market they are complaining that someone has done exactly the same thing…

Posted by GT on July 29, 2004 at 11:38 PM (PDT)

46

ipeddler—there is nothing wrong with Apple keeping their system closed, but it is one reason I don’t own an iPod (although I confess to being ipod-curious, that’s why I am here).  The first hardware vendor to sell a player that supports fairplay/AAC as well as .wma is likely to get my dollars.  Today, that seems like an impossible product.  Tomorrow, I can always hope….

Andy

Posted by Andy on July 29, 2004 at 11:42 PM (PDT)

47

I think its excellent that someone is finally opening the fairplay thingy, it would give some competition to itms, maybe reducing prices. However, i HATE realplayer. Its compleatly unstable. So I hope that this harmony thing is better designed the realplayer. Although i probally wouldn’t “buy” any music from it seeing as apple could easely make it incompatable with the ipod.

Posted by booksacool1 on July 30, 2004 at 2:35 AM (PDT)

48

Honestly, why do we need real?  CHOICE?  All the arguements here are good for one reason or another, but in the end Apple is right about it’s choice.  All you windows lusers should understand being the 800lbs gorilla that pushes people around to get it’s way.  That’s right windows is the most proprietary system out there and you people complain when someone else does the same? 


  Apple put together a winning package ipod+itms.  According to many news sites on the internet, ipod holds a 50% share of the market.  The ipods success is based upon opening a box, installing some software (itms) and the ipod working flawlessly.  This is what separates good companies from bad ones.  Sun hardware with Solaris, HP with HP-UX, linux and x86.  These are winning combos THAT WORK.  ITMS+IPOD works, now why mess with it?  CHOICE?  The choice is simple buy ipod and use itunes or don’t buy the ipod. 

Posted by toothpaste in NYC on July 30, 2004 at 4:15 AM (PDT)

49

Think of it this way who cares real stinks no one will use it! What the heck is the big deal, real won’t even be around 3 years from now!

Posted by okay on July 30, 2004 at 4:28 AM (PDT)

50

What a bunch of cry babies Apple are.  I didn’t formerly have that opinion until the Fanboi response to complaints about the Planned Obsolesence of the iPod and its system software, but now I’ve learned that when something bad happens to you, you should adopt the POV of the person who benefits, no matter whether you personally do or not.  So, I’m taking Real’s side, blindly, in true Fanboi fashion, just because Apple was slighted.

Also, wasn’t Wozniak a HUGE hacker and phreak?  Wasn’t Apple Computer built on money made from selling blue boxes, devices whose only use is to illegally gain access to old-style telephone trunk lines to make free long distance calls?  Perhaps instead of bemoaning their fate and pointing the hacker-finger, Apple should take AT&T’s point of view in the 70s, when Apple was using hacker tactics against them, and just ignore it and hope that this hacking will one day result in something good (like Apple Computer, born of hacking, became).

BTW, if this doesn’t put the nail in the coffin about the argument as to whether Apple is significantly “thinking differently”, in terms of corporate outlook and culture, than its main rivals such as Microsoft, I don’t know what will.  Apple has become “The Establishment”.

Posted by Billy Joe Bob on July 30, 2004 at 5:05 AM (PDT)

51

Ok, so you say we have a choice…I choose NEVER to use Realplayer software for my iPod.

Pretty simple huh?

Posted by Adam on July 30, 2004 at 5:24 AM (PDT)

52

“In cases where apple is not offering the market leading product (such as office suites) they use reverse engineering of their competitors products to get compatibility. Now they have a product that dominates the market they are complaining that someone has done exactly the same thing…”

Yes, but I can run Microsoft office and appleworks on my computer at the same time and they work seemlessly. As it appears you can’t run both iTunes and Real at the same time. So their level of reverse engineering has incompatibilities and therefore is not as nice. If Real were really trying to allow people “continued choice” instead of just choose this “or” that, the idea of real making compatible files may be more intrigueing to me.

Posted by studogvetmed in Loveland, CO on July 30, 2004 at 5:40 AM (PDT)

53

“One thing on a side note, to lol, are you a mac user or a linux user? Im betting a mac user because linux supporters wouldn’t say things like that about choices. Most likely your on a mac, which, much like microsoft, is a propriatary operating system (altho built on unix) and apple offers no choices much like ms on that regard. Please don’t spew bs without thinking first.”

I was referring to the software that M$ forces onto their end-users, jack-wad. For example, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, etc.

Oh, I wouldn’t want to disturb your dreams of a Linux utopia—God forbid I enjoy using software (yes, a Mac) that is proprietary, but also allows me to easily install open source projects like Mozilla and their variants.

btw: “your” in your above sentence needs an apostrophe followed by “re,” and you spelled proprietary wrong as well. Does your Linux build have a spellcheck? Don’t accuse people of not thinking when you can’t even structure a sentence or run a simple spellcheck.

Posted by lol on July 30, 2004 at 5:51 AM (PDT)

54

I just think it’s funny that anyone would stand up for Apple trying to restrict what you can put on your iPod. How blind can you be?

The more competition there is, the more the (informed) consumer benefits. Look at PC prices compared to Mac prices; it’s a direct result of people having choices over hardware manufacturers, and the competition that resulted because of it.

Like a child, you need to open your eyes, pull that Apple teat out of your mouth, and walk wide-eyed into the world of choices.

Posted by Jeff on July 30, 2004 at 5:56 AM (PDT)

55

In response to a post that said iTunes has any album you could ever want.  This is far from the truth, and you must like only MTV garbage.  Indy records, older bands, and live albums are hard to come by.

Posted by Matt on July 30, 2004 at 6:02 AM (PDT)

56

“The more competition there is, the more the (informed) consumer benefits. Look at PC prices compared to Mac prices; it’s a direct result of people having choices over hardware manufacturers, and the competition that resulted because of it.”

Gee, I’m sure glad there is “competition” with PC makers. Nothing like having a glut of cheap plastic boxes to fill landfills.

You have choices. Use Amazon or a music store and burn to AAC or MP3 if you don’t just want to use the iTunes store. Is .99 cents too much for a song?

Don’t shove your slash and burn economics on me. I’d prefer things were made a little better and avoided polluting the environment as much as possible, and I’m willing to pay the higher price for that peace of mind. So, having cheaper hardware is not really a something that appeals to me.

Posted by lol on July 30, 2004 at 6:10 AM (PDT)

57

Billy Joe Bob -
Oh and what was MS born from?  The goodness and purity of the fairy folk from the enchanted forest?  Please!
So what if a company has a shady background.  Apple has actually worked hard to get to where they are today and they simply want to protect their meal ticket.  Perhaps the biggest issue here is not about consumer choice but Apple’s choice.  If Real is allowed to reverse engineer FairPlay, then any other hack music store (read Sony) can do the same.  The consumers then get to choose from one good store (ITMS) and dozens of cheap hack stores.  Now who is the real loser here?  Apple.  They lose all the revenue that they could generate by licensing FairPlay to other music stores.  And who is to say that if another music store came along and offered an actual competitive product to ITMS that Apple might not license FairPlay to them.  Right now Apple has all the apples.  They have the #1 rated music player and the #1 rated music store.  I personally started using ITMS before buying my iPod.  Why?  I like the freedom that FairPlay gave over the more strict DRM of the others.  That where the real consumer choice is at - Who will let me do the most with the music that I BOUGHT.  Right now, that’s Apple.  So let’s quit with all the Consumer Choice crap because you have a choice Use Apple or don’t.  Just like we have the choice of use MS or don’t or use GM or don’t.  This issue is not about consumer choice but Manufacturer Revenue Choice.

Posted by Abahd Fugufish on July 30, 2004 at 6:14 AM (PDT)

58

Matt -
The actual line was:
iTunes has over 750,000 songs and Amazon has every album you could want to burn to your iPod—do we need more choices?
Amazon has every album you could ever want not iTunes.  Besides name me even a BM that has a good selection of Indy, older and live recordings.  It’s not that those are hard to come by just online, but they are hard to come by at all.

Posted by Abahd Fugufish on July 30, 2004 at 6:19 AM (PDT)

59

thanks abahd+

Posted by lol` on July 30, 2004 at 6:27 AM (PDT)

60

After asking around the non-geek crowd about what they think of Real and their new service being supposedly compatible with iPod, I have come upon this conclusion:

NOBODY CARES

You have plenty of choice anyway in your iPod, as you can sync your pod with tons of other software titles (I use GTKpod, for one) if you don’t like iTunes.

Posted by Sraphim on July 30, 2004 at 7:00 AM (PDT)

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