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RealNetworks: “RealJukebox is First Universal Digital Music System”

No, the battle between RealNetworks and Microsoft is not over yet; it may just be heating up.

Microsoft made an announcement Tuesday saying that RealNetworks has licensed its software development kit for implementing Windows Media into RealNetworks software. In its press release, Microsoft said that its Windows Media Audio format was poised to become the new standard for digital music.

RealNetworks, however, answered that the licensing wasn't that much of a big deal. It simply said that WMA is just another audio format (the eighth) that will be added to RealJukebox. Despite Microsoft's claims of superiority, RealNetworks said RealJukebox was the "first universal digital music system".

With both companies claiming victory in this deal the deal makes clear that there is no love lost between the two companies.

The RealJukebox has said it will support MP3, RealAudio, a2b, IBM's EMMS, Liquid Audio, Mjuice, Sony Music's ATRAC3, and Universal Music Group/InterTrust. So far, six are currently available in RealJukebox. Windows Media Audio will be just another file format, Real saying somewhat dryly that it is only adding support for an "incremental 2%" of the market.

"Supporting the widest range of formats is yet another way RealNetworks isdemonstrating to consumers its commitment to providing the best digital musicexperience," said Steve Banfield, general manager, Consumer Division,RealNetworks, Inc. "No other jukebox product supports such a comprehensivearray of content formats. Even if consumers can only access an additional 2%of Internet audio content, we want to provide the most complete solution formeeting their needs."

In a New York Times article, Rob Glaser, RealNetworks CEO said Microsoft's announcement was a bit off. ""Microsoft is working as our p.r. department," he said.

RealNetworks also made clear that the licensing only pertains to the RealJukebox product and not the RealPlayer used for streaming audio and video.

So the dream of a universal player isn't quite there yet but this is a significant step for both companies. RealNetworks gains yet another file format to add to its jukebox player and Microsoft spreads its format (with digital rights built-in) into a huge base of installed Real users.

RealNetworks made no announcement when the RealJukebox player would begin supporting Windows Media audio.

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