Real, Microsoft, Napster versus Steve Jobs

Erick Schonfield has an update. Check it out!

Everyone has always wanted to be Steve Jobs – for his sense of style, his dress sense, his ability to mesmerize the audiences with shiny toys and of course lately his runaway success, iPod and subsequently the iTunes store. Everyone – from phone companies to Microsoft to Real Networks – are so riled up, that they will go to any extent to humble Steve.

Real Networks, for instance is going to announce a new and yet another makeover of its Rhapsody service tomorrow. The news will come tomorrow at a flashy gig in Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall. I have some skinny, in case tomorrow never comes. Real Rhapsody To Go is likely to be announced, some sources say. (Reuters has some details!) Rent music every month – much like Napster. Never mind the total subscription market for 2005 is estimated to be a mere $200 million. Apple’s music sales for 2005 expected to be around $350 million. There is a good chance that new Rhapsody2Go service could be played on iPod as well – well till Apple releases a patch and kills it. You all know about that Harmony stuff that prompted Steve Jobs to label Rob Glaser a “hacker.”

Furthermore, anyone who downloads the Rhapsody software to their PC will be able to listen to 25 tracks in a month. Not the 30-second preview you get in iTunes store. For instance you can listen to Nitin Sawhney’s forthcoming album Philtre, twice, before deciding to buy it. No need to put a credit card number, an email address will do the job. (Interesting enough feature, which frankly Apple should adapt for its store – i.e. let us listen to the tracks before we buy them. Many of the down tempo stuff I buy doesn’t even register for first minute or so!) Like the album enough, then send the URL to your buddies who can listen to the album, if they have Rhapsody software. Here is the irony of it all – the Real’s new improved Rhapsody is going to support Microsoft’s Play4Sure DRM. Ten years ago, when streaming music was first getting started, well, Real and Rob Glaser could not stand Bill Gates.

Bottom line – the old tale about two cats fighting over apiece of bread, and monkey walking away with the goodies. All this drama around subscriptions, devices, phones versus simple, easy iPod. Guess where consumer is headed.