Our World. Our Minutae.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

REAL NETWORKS - Selling You What's Not Real & a Few Half Truths

Real Networks is trying to convince you "Harmony" is about giving you/us 'consumer's choice' when the reality is we already have ALL the choices we need and they are only offering 'dis-harmony.' On the surface, Real is saying - hey, buy from us - it will work on your ipod. But why? I have not actually used their service but as I understand it, you can buy tracks that you can then burn to a CD to play anywhere. So, Harmony is not necessary - you can load these audio files loss-less by converting them to AIFF, WAV or Apple loss-less and load them onto your ipod. Or re-rip it as an Mp3 if you don't mind losing some fidelity and load that straight into your ipod - so how again is Apple & the ipod "LOCKING" us, the consumer out? Apple itunes and the ipod loads and plays back 6 open formats (AIFF, WAV, Apple loss-less, Mp3, Mp3 VBR & M4P) that you can convert ANY CD (whether store bought or converted from another store's tracks) to itunes and the ipod. Now, there are often cries that Apple's itunes music store titles are proprietary and they are quick to cite other 'dead' formats - except all those 'dead' formats they cite are analog formats like LP's or 8-tracks. AAC M4p's are DIGITAL. How is that different? They can be converted to another format without any apparent loss in fidelity! Even if Apple stopped selling itunes music tracks tomorrow - you just have to burn those tracks to a CD that will play on any CD player WORLDWIDE and every DVD player in the WORLD. It will take you approximately 5 minutes to burn 15 tracks. How dead can a format be when you can convert it in 5 minutes to play on BILLIONS of devices? Analog formats require you to output it to another format - thus degrading its quality with each step. That is exactly the opposite of digital and you don't even have to convert in REAL TIME - unlike a 40-minute LP takes 40 minutes to convert to any other format - you can convert digital formats in a mere fraction of the actual playing time. So, Harmony gives us nothing we don't already have right now with the ipod & the itunes music store. Well, except one thing - it sows confusion - aka: DISHARMONY. Why was the Apple itunes music store successful? It was the first working marriage of software & hardware - any other company could've done that also but but for whatever did not deliver that to consumers. The itunes music store replaces NOTHING. No retail stores closed because they opened and in fact, a couple dozen more online stores are springing up. Like even brick & mortar stores, there are certain benefits and tradeoffs with the itunes music store - it serve many people's needs but NOT EVERYONE'S (There is no store that serves absolutely everyone's needs). It offers you immediate gratification - no driving to the store and hoping it's there. You can sit and home - click a few times and know exactly if it's available. The itunes music store's success is also because of its ease of use. You plug in your ipod. You click on BUY MUSIC - if you have syncing turned on - it loads it straight on there for you. Yes, there are some restrictions and other considerations but it's all upfront. You know exactly what you're getting and what you're not getting - again, if you don't find the terms useful for you - you do not have to purchase any tracks - your ipod works fine with 6 other formats to choose from. You have free choice to do as you please. As noted, no CD stores closed - for some of us who prefer a physical object, the ipod and even the itunes music store works just fine. Apple spent a lot of effort to make it as seamless as possible for many people. Again, if you find any portion of it disagreeable to you, you don't have to purchase anything but you can still preview 800,000+ tracks for FREE. It's simply there if you want to use the service. What Harmony does is to disrupt that seamlessness. Is that really beneficial to you? What does Harmony deliver to you that you did not have last week as a consumer? NOTHING. All you have to do is gather up 8-15 tracks you purchased from REAL and burn it to a CD. As noted, you can import into your ipod/itunes 3 loss-less formats straight from any CD (store bought or created by you) onto your ipod in literally MINUTES. You can also choose from three open compressed formats to load that CD onto your ipod (Mp3, VBR Mp3 & M4P) also literally in MINUTES. That's many more choices than Real's player offers you! They had a chance to get it right but did not so now, their next reaction is to try and throw a wrench into the simple solution that Apple built. And it's also completely hypocrisy from REAL. They are a company that has built an ENTIRE business on locking away content so that it only plays on their proprietary player! Is there a 'consumer choice' from REAL for converting REAL RAM/RM files to something more universal? No. Shouldn't REAL have worked on that first? Unlocking their own content before trying to unlock someone else's? Remember that to convert locked Apple AAC files to an unlocked CD audio file takes mere minutes and is built into itunes! That's what's so UNREAL about the REAL situation. We have a solution that serves MILLIONS of people already perfectly fine. I am a consumer who wishes to buy and download tracks with a couple clicks. It loads automatically and plays back perfectly on my ipod. I can then convert these tracks to 6 other formats in a few minutes time to load onto any other Mp3 player in the world or if I leave it on a CD, play it back on BILLIONS of devices. That the ipod/itunes music store combo. If any of that doesn't serve your needs in any manner, it's your choice not to purchase/partake. You can also use an ipod with the Real Music Store - simply burn the tracks to a CD and import/re-rip into itunes/ipod - you can do that right now and today. But REAL discovered that people don't want an online store less well-designed and selling it in a format that requires conversion before importing it into an ipod but instead of making it easier to convert their files to Mp3 or AIFF or WAV - instead, they decided the best way is to throw a wrench into someone's effort by saying 'they won't let us play in their well constructed sandbox.' We're not going to hack our own files to make it easier to use, we're going to hack yours. Completely UNREAL - especially from the king of locked internet content. Shame on anyone who fell for their misrepresentation of what's REALLY going on!

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