RealNetworks offering unauthorized downloads for the iPod

Apple 4G iPod

Obviously itching for a fight with Apple, RealNetworks is introducing some software that'll let you play downloads bought from their online music store on an iPod (as well as plenty of other MP3 players, too). Apple doesn't see much point to opening up the iPod to anyone else (which you gotta admit is just teensiest bit frustrating) and will probably counter by changing the firmware on the iPod so that this won't work for very long (just like how they keep "upgrading" iTunes so that it won't play files that have had the DRM removed). This means iPod owners who buy stuff from the RealNetworks store could find themselves with a collection of music they can't play on their device, something which you'd think would keep most iPod owners from buying from them, especially since the downloads cost exactly the same price (99 cents) as they do at the iTunes Music Store.

Opening up a little bit might not be all that bad for Apple, though, since this would make it easier for someone who had say, a Rio Karma, to switch to an iPod because they wouldn't have to worry about whether or not they'd be able to play their collection of digital downloads on it (though honestly all this format incompatibility nonsense reminds us of why most people just download unrestricted MP3s off of Kazaa). Besides, if Apple is really serious about the iTunes Music Store merely being a loss-leader to sell iPods, then should they really mind if RealNetworks or anyone else takes the loss? If the iPod is really so great they shouldn't have to lock in their customers with a restricted file format to keep them from switching to another digital audio player — they shouldn't want to switch in the first place.

[Thanks, GJZM]