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RealNetworks says music now transferable to iPod

SEATTLE -- RealNetworks Inc. says it has created technology that allows songs purchased through its online music services to be played on Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod player, just a few months after complaining that Apple was rebuffing attempts to form an alliance.

RealNetworks chief executive Rob Glaser said he did not know how Apple would react to the new technology. Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., did not return numerous phone calls seeking comment.

On Friday, Glaser said the new system, called Harmony Technology, will let people securely transfer music bought using RealNetworks' music download services to an iPod or virtually any other portable music player.

Previously, music purchased through RealNetworks' music download services could most easily be played on devices that supported its copyright protection technology. By the same token, the easiest way to get digital music onto the iPod player was through Apple's iTunes Music Store, which uses its own system. The same held true for devices that supported Microsoft's Windows Media Player antipiracy technology.

Microsoft said it could not immediately comment on the system.

Glaser said the new system works by essentially translating the various antipiracy technologies, to make the players' systems compatible with RealNetworks' system. RealNetworks said it was not concerned that the system would be illegal.

''We are making it so that consumers can buy music once and play it anywhere," Glaser said.

A test version of Harmony will be available tomorrow on Real's website.

In April, Apple chairman Steve Jobs rebuffed Glaser's request for a meeting to discuss an alliance between the companies, prompting complaints from RealNetworks representatives about why Apple didn't want to make its popular system more open.

There is already a way to make songs from RealNetworks' online music services play on the iPod, but it is cumbersome.

Phil Leigh, an analyst with Inside Digital Media in Tampa, said he was surprised to hear that Real had developed the technology, since Apple has been careful about guarding its popular -- and proprietary -- system.

He said the new system could be a boon for RealNetworks, because customers would be able to buy whatever player they want without worrying about whether it would work with Real's service. But he said it would only be a success if it was easy and reliable.

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