Will Apple Get Real?

Rob Hof

Sure doesn't sound like it, judging from what Rob Glaser, CEO of Real Networks, said today at the Digital Living Room conference in Silicon Valley. Glaser was asked if he talked with Jobs about Real's newest service, which lets its Rhapsody digital music subscribers listen to streamed tunes on the Web on any kind of computer, even Macs (but not on the iPod). "We think that Apple Computer and probably Steve Jobs are making a big mistake" by not cooperating to let music subscription services work on the iPod, Glaser replied, before criticizing Jobs' "pigheadedness." "Why view it as a threat when it's an additive service?" He noted that the iPod is clearly the best music player, but that with so many other companies innovating in MP3 players, "this worm will turn too."

As someone who generally prefers the serendipity of my customized Web radio station on Yahoo's LAUNCHcast to my own music collection, I wish these guys could come to some agreement. Or at least that Apple would offer some kind of subscription or radio service that I could use on an iPod (the one I would buy if such a service were available, that is). I'm not alone here. My colleague Peter Burrows is frustrated, too.

After all, as Glaser pointed out, MP3 player owners spend only 20 cents on digital content for every $1 spent on the hardware. That's backwards, to say the least. And 99-cent downloads aren't going to change it.

Neither will subscription and radio services that don't work on the Mac, by the way. As you Mac folks already know if you clicked on that link to my Yahoo radio station, the Yahoo player works only on Windows. So it's not all Steve's fault.

There may be some promising signs. But it shouldn't be taking this long. Guys, just knock down the walls to the music, and I'll pay for it. OK?

UPDATE: Some Apple zealots (see Comments below) seem to misread me almost willfully, with several suggesting that I want to play Windows Media files on my iPod and the like. Nope, I don't care what format it is. If Apple would offer some kind of service like Rhapsody or Launchcast, it would be game over, and I'd be Apple all the way. I also find it a little weird that Apple zealots seem to feel that simply because Apple does a good job, nobody has a right to ask for more. Why not? I'm sure Steve Jobs doesn't settle for merely good enough from his own people.

Hey, I just want to hear a lot of different music, like FM radio used to be (and some college radio still is), only more so because I know the Web makes that possible. And I'd prefer to do that on the best player on the market instead of the second or third best. That doesn't seem too much to ask of Apple or anybody else. I'm waiting here with credit card in hand....