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RealNetworks Says Files Can Play on iPod, Also works on other players
Galley
post Jul 26 2004, 04:02
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SEATTLE (AP) - RealNetworks Inc. (RNWK) says it has created technology that allows songs purchased through its online music services to be played on Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL)'s popular iPod player, just a few months after complaining that Apple was rebuffing attempts to form an alliance.

In an interview Friday, 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 from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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 anti-piracy technology.

Microsoft said it could not immediately comment on the system.

Glaser said the new the system works by essentially translating the various anti-piracy 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 Tuesday on Real's Web site.

Full Story: http://apnews.myway.com//article/20040726/D842707G0.html
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Otto42
post Jul 26 2004, 04:07
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Sounds like it's a program for talking to the iPod, similar to iTunes, which will transcode from whatever format Real is selling to some format that the iPod supports. It might even transcode to a protected AAC format, if they're serious about security. Then they just store the key on the iPod and voila, it'll play. Easy enough to do.


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robUx4
post Jul 26 2004, 08:56
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QUOTE (Galley @ Jul 26 2004, 04:02 AM)
RealNetworks said it was not concerned that the system would be illegal.


Cool, that means we could finally distribute some Real copyrighted material too (like the RealVideo codec in the Matroska Pack).


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dev0
post Jul 26 2004, 10:22
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Real already uses AAC in its online store (licensed Coding Technologies implementation), they only need to transmux the stream from their RA container to apples M4P container.


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/\/ephaestous
post Jul 26 2004, 10:37
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Well this is really interesting because, Real Files, in order to be playable in the iPod would:

- Be muxed into Apple's m4p format (which has already been cracked)
- Be muxed into a regular mp4 (which would make it cross-plataform)

So, if there is no option three, wouldn't we be able to play these tunes in linux either way?

If that's true it would be great news for people who would like to buy music online without buying an iPod or using iTMS

This post has been edited by /\/ephaestous: Jul 26 2004, 10:38


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Otto42
post Jul 26 2004, 15:31
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QUOTE (/\/ephaestous @ Jul 26 2004, 04:37 AM)
Well this is really interesting because, Real Files, in order to be playable in the iPod would:

- Be muxed into Apple's m4p format (which has already been cracked)
- Be muxed into a regular mp4 (which would make it cross-plataform)
*

Assuming that they also use AES encryption in their format, they'll probably go with the M4P method. The upshot of this is that it requires the decryption key to be stored in a special file on the iPod itself, in order for the iPod to play it. This could be a problem, because if you try and, say, play the M4P using iTunes, it will not only not play, it'll talk to Apple's server, try to get a key, fail, and still not play. Alternatively, they may leave the thing in "RM" format and simply fake the headers enough to fool the iPod into playing it as if it was an M4P. This is possible, although I think the iPod may rely on the extension in this case and so that might not work.

If they go with the second method, and create an M4A file, then it's not encrypted at all and you're golden.


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bond
post Jul 26 2004, 18:27
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interesting news indeed

from my point of view i cant imagine that this new tool will create unprotected .mp4 files


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karl_lillevold
post Jul 26 2004, 18:42
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As you know, the RealNetworks music store sells songs in 192 kbps AAC (as opposed to iTMS at 128 kbps). When transferring your purchased songs to the iPod, the AAC itself is not touched, but the Helix DRM is transmuxed to a DRM that is compatible with the iPod, i.e. fully protected and without trans-coding. If you then transfer the file back to your PC (for instance with Anapod), you get an M4P file, that is a protected MPEG-4 AAC file.

I did not work on this myself, I work with video codecs, but this is how you will see it works, after 5 minutes of testing, and is how the press release describes it as well, in less technical terms.

This post has been edited by karl_lillevold: Jul 29 2004, 18:40


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bond
post Jul 26 2004, 18:49
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cool stuff (as long as something like drm can be cool wink.gif )
why did real not simply use the same drm system as apple, right from the beginning? does real have plans to change to selling .m4p by default?

interoperability is always a good thing smile.gif


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rufu
post Jul 26 2004, 19:04
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Hopefully this will put pressure on Apple to up the bitrate for the iTMS
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woody_woodward
post Jul 26 2004, 19:56
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Friends, this is a sad story... There are just too many audio formats, and way too many protection schemes. They all seem to have a strong foothold. The battle may wage for years, but sooner or later someone (probably me) is going to get BetaMaxed!! God help us.
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Otto42
post Jul 26 2004, 19:58
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QUOTE (karl_lillevold @ Jul 26 2004, 12:42 PM)
As you know, the RealNetworks music store sells songs in 192 kbps AAC (as opposed to iTMS at 128 kbps). When transferring your purchased songs to the iPod, the AAC itself is not touched, but the Helix DRM is transmuxed to the DRM used by the iPod, i.e. fully protected and without trans-coding. If you then transfer the file back to your PC (for instance with Anapod), you get an M4P file, that is a protected MPEG-4 AAC file.
*

That's pretty much what I figured. However, you do realize that the key must be on the iPod too, correct? I mean, it'll be just as easy for something that breaks the Apple Fairplay protections to now break your protections, since you're transmuting the DRM methodology from one to the other.


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JonLech
post Jul 26 2004, 21:19
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Karl, can you comment on whether Harmony gets a userkey from an authorized iTunes install, gets a userkey from Apple's servers, or generates a new userkey?

Btw, where do I send the invoice? wink.gif


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ezra2323
post Jul 27 2004, 01:51
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I noticed something very interesting on the news release. It stated that now REAL will be able to be played on a variety of MP3 players, including the iPod, where previously the only compatible player was the Creative Nomad Zen Xtra. REAL uses 192 kbps AAC right? Since when can the Nomad Xtra play AAC, or REAL files????

Anyway, this is great news for iPod owners, assuming the integration with the iPod is seamless. 192 AAC should be terrific quality, although I have not used REAL's store as of yet.
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karl_lillevold
post Jul 27 2004, 07:40
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You can now download the beta here:
http://www.real.com/harmony


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svkelley
post Jul 27 2004, 23:47
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No Mac OS X version sadly.

Sean

QUOTE (karl_lillevold @ Jul 26 2004, 10:40 PM)
You can now download the beta here:
http://www.real.com/harmony
*
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karl_lillevold
post Jul 29 2004, 18:47
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For your information:

RealNetworks Statement about Harmony Technology and Creating Consumer Choice

Real is delighted by initial consumer and music industry support for Harmony. Compatibility, choice and quality are critically important to consumers and Harmony provides all of these to users of the iPod and over 70 other music devices including those from Creative, Rio, iRiver, and others. RealPlayer Music Store provides the highest sound quality of any download music service. That's why so many consumers have welcomed news of Harmony. Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod.

Harmony follows in a well established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility. There is ample and clear precedent for this activity, for instance the first IBM compatible PCs from Compaq. Harmony creates a way to lock content from Real's music store in a way that is compatible with the iPod, Windows Media DRM devices, and Helix DRM devices. Harmony technology does not remove or disable any digital rights management system. Apple has suggested that new laws such as the DMCA are relevant to this dispute. In fact, the DMCA is not designed to prevent the creation of new methods of locking content and explicitly allows the creation of interoperable software.

We remain fully committed to Harmony and to giving millions of consumers who own portable music devices, including the Apple iPod, choice and compatibility.


also on yahoo


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Otto42
post Jul 29 2004, 19:01
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I grabbed a copy of the Harmony beta the other day. It works, but is a bit confusing to use, to some degree.

Note that the iPod software isn't built in, you have to download a plugin for it to work. It's pretty easy to get the plugin right in the software itself though.

I'd like the new RealPlayer better if they'd lose the ugly interface. I don't need all my windows to be curved and skinned and such, thank you. A simple normal window with a box design would be fine by me. The skinning slows everything down and makes it hard to use. It's one of the reasons I dislike iTunes.

It appears to support smart playlists, although I didn't test that thoroughly. It may be a fakey kind of support.

I didn't feel like buying a song from Real to test out that aspect. It'd be nice if they had a free song available I could test with. iTunes have the free song of the week, which comes in handy for that sort of thing.


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Garf
post Jul 29 2004, 19:01
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QUOTE (rufu @ Jul 26 2004, 08:04 PM)
Hopefully this will put pressure on Apple to up the bitrate for the iTMS
*


Note that Apple's AAC encoder is a lot better than Real's. I wouldn't be so sure that Real offers higher quality files until I see it tested.

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rjamorim
post Jul 29 2004, 19:02
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@karl: You probably can't comment on that, but if you can...

Any threats from Apple so far? smile.gif

This post has been edited by rjamorim: Jul 29 2004, 19:06


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robUx4
post Jul 29 2004, 19:09
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Good luck to Real for that ! I hope they will win in the end.

BTW, "Helix DRM devices"... Does that mean the DRM system is open-source or at least available to any OS supported by Helix ? That would be really cool.


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danchr
post Jul 29 2004, 19:10
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This is on various news media around the 'net:

QUOTE (Apple)
We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod®, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods.
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underground_soun...
post Jul 29 2004, 19:14
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QUOTE (rjamorim @ Jul 29 2004, 10:02 AM)
@karl: You probably can't comment on that, but if you can...

Any threats from Apple so far? :)
*


Apple Real Mad
Apple seems pretty upset, they acused Real of using "tactics and ethics of a hacker" (pretty harsh words to company that they had planned to form an alliance with). Anyways Apple says that they plan to block Real's Harmony access to the iPod in future iPod and iTunes updates.
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robUx4
post Jul 29 2004, 19:14
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Hacker is not an odd word in the computing+dev world.

IIRC, Real offered Apple cooperation to allow this to work in a friendlier manner. But they refused because of their large monopoly. Now Real probably don't break the DCMA (which only apply to USAns anyway), so good luck to Apple.


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danchr
post Jul 29 2004, 19:36
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QUOTE (robUx4 @ Jul 29 2004, 07:14 PM)
IIRC, Real offered Apple cooperation to allow this to work in a friendlier manner. But they refused because of their large monopoly.
*

AFAIK Apple has about 70% of the online music market, which hardly makes them a monopoly. Yet.
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