Real's Harmony in Three Parts

Rob Glaser is getting desperate. What else could possibly explain Real's latest PR stunt business move. Everybody and their brother is reporting on the newfound compatibility of RealPlayer Music Store with every major device. Harmony is billed as the solution designed to be the most versatile music store on the planet. Buy music from RealPlayer Music Store and convert it to WMA or AAC, depending on what type of portable player you own.

Great in theory I suppose. Where this theory falls down is doing the more important conversions. For instance, I currently own a Rio Karma and make most of my music purchases from Napster in WMA format. My birthday is just around the corner and Robin decides I need a green iPod Mini. All my Napster purchases are useless on the Mini because it only plays AAC or MP3. Harmony doesn't address my dilemma at all.

The same holds true in reverse. My brother Paul owns an iPod with hundreds of AAC format songs purchased via iTunes Music Store. He buys Portable Media Center so he can take audio and video with him every where and sells the iPod on eBay. Those AAC files are useless on the PMC and every other non-iPod device. Harmony doesn't solve this problem at all.

Bottom line, Real can't convert DRM'd files from WMA or AAC because they would be in violation of the DMCA. Microsoft doesn't need RealNetworks to play middleman with their format; Apple doesn't either.

So what problem does Harmony solve? It solves Real's problem of no device support for Real format files. Portable devices don't support Real format. The market share is too small for device manufacturers to care, so in order to have a hope in hell of building a customer base, Real needs to convert its files to other formats. This is one more futile attempt at remaining relevant in a market that is quickly leaving them behind.

If Real wants any hope of competing, what they should be doing is retiring the Real format, merging with
, and marketing a huge library of MP3 files to their customers through the desktop spam engine built into RealPlayer. At least then they could claim to have the only music store compatible with every device. Harmony is a game of lets pretend.