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RealNetworks Seeks to Work With Apple

Apple Computer Inc. apparently doesn’t want to sing the same tune as its Internet music rival RealNetworks Inc.

Seattle-based RealNetworks said Thursday that Apple chairman Steve Jobs had rebuffed an offer by RealNetworks’ chief executive Rob Glaser to meet and discuss forming an online music alliance involving Apple’s best-selling iPod portable players.

“He’s in the neighborhood, but whatever meeting Rob wanted with Steve isn’t happening,” RealNetworks spokesman Greg Chiemingo said Thursday. “Steve just doesn’t want to open the iPod, and we don’t understand that.”

Executives at Cupertino-based Apple declined to comment.

As first reported in The New York Times, Glaser made the invitation in an e-mail to Jobs last week that suggested that the two companies join forces against their common enemy, Microsoft Corp. He proposed a meeting to discuss the matter this week while he was in the Silicon Valley.

As competition in the online music market has increased, RealNetworks has sought to work with Apple so RealNetworks’ customers can choose to play their music collections on Apple’s best-selling iPod portable players.

RealNetworks, Apple and Microsoft all are jockeying for position in digital media – in which encoding formats and copy-protection technologies dictate how and on which devices consumers play their music.

Like Apple’s leading iTunes song-download store, RealNetworks’ online music store supports the Advanced Audio Coding format, which competes against Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio format predominantly used by other legal music sites.

But because of Apple’s proprietary copy-protection standard Fairplay, songs attained from RealNetworks’ Rhapsody music service and RealPlayer music store cannot be played on Apple’s iPod players.

“We want support for all media formats,” Chiemingo said, “and it makes sense for us to make the most consistent experience for consumers so they can move their content to whatever device they want.”

RealNetworks also may later consider endeavors to support Microsoft’s WMA format – despite RealNetworks and Microsoft’s pending antitrust legal spat, he said.

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