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Rhapsody hits the big 4.0

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Along with all that SanDisk and Best Buy fraternizing that Real announced this morning, they've released the new 4.0 version of their Rhapsody music service. Perhaps the biggest change is under the hood: they're basing the player on the new "Rhapsody DNA," which is a technology platform that combines Real's Helix DRM, custom firmware for players (like the Sansa), and a web service API that allows for Sonos integration and other capabilities. What this means for the consumer is that Rhapsody 4.0 operates with the Sansa player in a much more integrated fashion than your average PlaysForSure syncing scheme. The new Rhapsody allows you to subscribe to genre or artist "Channels" which are automatically refreshed on your Sansa; drag and drop tracks into your library or onto the player; and create dynamic playlists that are, again, synced to your player automatically. There are other minor enhancements, mostly based around music recommendations, along with a decent facelift and a library import feature that can pull in stored music files, including files from "other services" -- which we're guessing refers to PlaysForSure files only. Prices are the same as ever: $9.99 for "Unlimited," and $14.99 for "Rhapsody To Go." Real is also promising week-early access to certain "hot new albums," and while all Rhapsody features will be available in the Best Buy Digital Music Store, there's going to be some exclusive content there as well. Real also announced today that they'll be pre-loading 30 hours of Rhapsody music onto all Sansa Rhapsody players sold.

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