August 17, 2004
As a bard once wrote: ...and get ready cuz this shit's about to get heavy.... So now Real has launched a website to help it defend poor, innocent downtrodden iPod users: Freedom of Music Choice!, Motto: Freedom of choice is what you want! How noble Real is in its aims! How egalitarian Real is in its desire to help out poor iPod users enslaved by the shackles of TEBAA! (The Evil Bastards At Apple) How brave Real is to take on the menace that is Steve Jobs, arch-enemy of Freedom of Music choice... How utterly and totally full of crap they are, and for this much blatant hypocrisy, they should be chased o'er the ends of the Earth by Molly Malone and her nine blind orphan children until the Almighty himself couldn't find them with a radio telescope.
Let's understand one thing here. Real doesn't care about openness. They never have. In fact, their entire business model has always been about locking you into their stuff, and vacuuming your pockets as hard and fast as possible. Example? One component of one of their packages, an enterprise management package for 500 users runs about $15K, and that's with a 19% package discount. Note: This is not the full package price, and we haven't bought any hardware yet.
Windows Media Servers are the cost of Windows 2003 Enterprise Server, and hardware. It's less than $15K. (how much exactly? Hard to say, since Windows licensing is about as convoluted as the thought processes of Charles Manson...as he's learning Gaelic.)
QuickTime Streaming Server? $500, or $1000, plus hardware. Darwin Streaming Server? Free, plus hardware.
Ever try to download the free version of RealPlayer? Hurts like hell it does. For anyone new to Real, it used to be worse. A lot worse. The only place Real supports openness is the end of its foot. It'll use open standards to get that foot in your door.
Then it's a couple roophies in your coffee, and you wake up feeling dirty, and with a $100K PO on it's way to Rob Glaser. So why the scam then? Because children, Real Networks is in the position of being what we professionals like to call screwed. They don't have a market anymore. They pissed it way with a level of arrogance, greed, and money-grubbing stupidity so astounding in its short-sightedness as to make Quark customer support look like Mary Poppins. They shook down their customers like an English Au Pair, and got away with it for about a decade, because for years and years, it was Real, or nothing.
It was bound to end, and it has, with Star Trek - like speed. First QuickTime, and then, and more damagingly, Windows Media not only gave people a choice in streaming media, but didn't screw them over while they did it. They didn't charge them exorbitant fees and lock them into contracts that make even Satan bow in awe. So now, what's left for Real's market. On the server side? Not much. Maybe serving existing customers. Any CIO buying a Real system should be placed under psychiatric evaluation, then fired, because they're crazy and stupid.
What about the client market? Well, that's come down to online music, and it's real rough. They can't compete in the Windows Media Audio, (WMA) market, because that's saturated with names like Napster, Wal-Mart, MusicMatch, and soon, Microsoft. We all know who wins fighting Microsoft for Windows users.
Sony's a closed book. Totally. Sony's toy only plays ATRAC.
Real hasn't had a chance on the Mac since SoundJam. It's not closed, it's just that they suck so badly that no sane Mac user would give up iTunes for Real Player. So the only thing left is the iPod, and only those owned by Windows users and Real figured something out...they could totally bullshit people on this.
They could play on the annoyance that Windows users have about not being able to make Napster, Wal-Mart, or MusicMatch work with the iPod. They could create a total non-issue and look like a Force For Good.
So they lied.
They have deliberately made statements that are untrue. They didn't do this out of ignorance, or anything else. They want to mislead people. First of all, their claim that the iPod is somehow a locked system is ridiculous. The iPod plays AAC, MP3, FairPlay AAC, AIF, WMA, WAV, and Apple Lossless. Anyone can use those formats. AAC is open. Panasonic has at least one AAC - compatible player. Heck Real even uses AAC, so it's obviously available for use by people who aren't Apple.
Hmm...well then it's getting music on the iPod that's locked to Apple. Hardly...take a look at VersionTracker under available software for the iPod. There's a plethora of people manipulating music on iPods. It's not that hard. Apple may not support it, but it's doable, and without great Agony. If Real wanted to, they could write their own jukebox for their stuff, run it on OS X, and have it talk to the iPod with no problems. Hell, thanks to Apple Events, they could even show you what you have in iTunes, and if they really wanted to, they could have their application use Apple Events, (or whatever the Windows Version is) to transfer music into iTunes automagically, thereby giving all the iPod users of the world the ability to use Real's music store on their iPods now.
The only thing that's locked is FairPlay. There's one device that can use FairPlay: the iPod. There's one digital music application that can use FairPlay: iTunes. There's one media architecture that can use FairPlay: QuickTime.
The only hard part for Real is getting their DRM to work on the iPod. The Pixo OS is at least somewhat hackable, but adding DRM to the iPod may not be doable. So, the only problem for Real is DRM. So, since RIAA insists on DRM, they aren't getting non - DRM'd stuff on the iPod. The next logical step is to see if they can somehow hack FairPlay legitimately. There are ways to do this that don't involve reverse - engineering or other things that makes the DMCA flustered and stern.
That's what they did. But then, the bullshit meter pegs. They market this as a way of "Freeing iPod users from the tyranny of TEBAA!" (TEBAA = The Evil Bastards At Apple) They're doing this as a way to free iPod users from the horrors of a locked platform. What.The.Hell? So they expect Windows iPod users to be stupid enough to believe that the iPod is locked to iTunes music, (it isn't) or that they somehow are missing out of a great big world of music that isn't on the iTMS, (even if you could only play iTMS songs on the iPod, the iTMS has a million songs or so. There's not much that's missing from my POV.), and that Apple, and Steve Jobs are anti - open standards.
Well, you can get Windows users to believe some pretty hysterical crap, so I can see that line of thought. What's even worse is that Real expects Mac iPod users to be even stupider , because you can't use Harmony on a Mac, heck you've never been able to use the Real Music store on a Mac. If you log in to Real's home page with a Mac user - agent ID in your browser, you can't even see that there is a Real Music store. So Real is effectively trying to lock Mac users out of this wonderful world of choice. What's astounding is that in all the interviews with Real, no one is asking them about this. The most pathetic thing is all the bobble-heads on Rob Glaser's dashboard nodding in agreement without even trying to dig into this diarrheal discharge of falsehoods and deception. It's all crap. Real's just bullshitting their user base, the same way they have for a decade or so. They just changed the buzzwords is all.| Comments ()
August 6, 2004
Real Networks HQ is now Spin City
Well, Real Networks is managing to suck many people in with their spinning tales of “We're supporting you against the evil bastards at Apple”. They certainly do weave a wonderous vision that has a lot of support, including the normally more analytical Hiawatha Bray from the Boston Globe. Bray wrote the strident “Apple's music operation hits a sour note” article that, within the first three sentences, accuses Apple of fostering music theft. However, there's a few problems with his, and most of the Pro-Real articles on this, namely, the minor facts they seem to all overlook.
It's well-written article, hard - hitting, no soft-pedaling of the issues. After I read it, I thought, “Damn, maybe I should look into this more.” So I decided to go check out the RealPlayer Music Store, to see what iPod users have been missing out on...and Lo! I couldn't get in. In fact, if you log into Real's site using a Mac user-agent in your browser, you can't see the link to the Real music store at all.
Well that seems odd. I mean, I want to see this great choice I'm missing out on due to The Evil Bastards At Apple“, (TEBAA). Luckily, I'm crafty. So I pop a new browser window, and change my user agent to MSIE 6 on Windows...go into Real's site disguised as a WIndows box, and there it is in all its glory, the RealPlayer Music Store.
A-ha! I say.
Now I have the URL. So I enter that URL into my first window, (the window with the Mac OS X user agent), and Lo!
We're sorry, this service is currently not available for Mac. I'm confused. I, as a Mac user, and an iPod owner, (one each of the first three generations of iPod) can't use the RealPlayer Music Store, (RPMS). The requirements for the RPMS state that it's only for Wintel users, even though QuickTime is a requirement, since the RPMS uses AAC. The system requirements for RealPlayer 10 with Harmony shows it to be a Wintel - only technology.
But Real is saying iPod users are denied choice due to Apple's unwillingness to open the platform. Well, evidently, over half the iPod market doesn't matter to Real, because what they mean is Windows iPod users. Evidently Mac users don't fit in to Rob Glaser's Harmony.
So I go back to the article, because I obviously didn't read it correctly. There's no way that a writer like Bray could fall for Glaser's pathetic attempts to spin his company as a force for choice. (Anyone with a clue about Real's past can take a fiver to finish laughing hysterically) and leave that critical piece of information out.
But Bray did, (Along with everyone else in Real's camp). In all the polemic about Steve Jobs' religious war, in all the ranting about Jobs' first major mistake since 1997, in all the cheering for Mr. Glaser's attempts to give the poor, downtrodden iPod users a ”choice“, in the accusations that Apple is ”forcing“ people to commit a crime, Bray, and many others, didn't point out that only WINDOWS iPod users get this choice, thereby making Real just as guilty of everything they're accusing TEBAA of. Real is not opening its music stores to Mac users, nor have they ever done so, nor is there any reason to think they ever will.
You would think, considering the iPod's presence in the Mac Market, and Glaser's deep need to get any kind of presence anywhere, that this would be just obvious. Of course, a journalist with Bray's credentials wouldn't deliberately leave out such a critical piece of information, especially one which shows that Real isn't nearly the ”hero of the iPod masses“ they're trying to paint themselves as. Paul Thurroit? Sure, he's about as much a journalist as Oliver Hardy was a contortionist. So I'll assume that Bray just didn't try to use the Harmony beta on a Mac, and assumed, (understandably) that Real wouldn't be so stupid as to pander to the masses while screwing over half the people they claim to be helping. (That's almost ”Land war in China“ stupid).
Bray also mentions Napster as being a part of the legal download market, insinuating that iPod users are being screwed by Apple because they can't hook up Napster to their iPods, but again, doesn't mention that Mac users can't use Napster regardless of which music player they use, because Napster is, like the RPMS, a Windows-only product.
Bitching at Apple about Napster being Mac - only is just silly. There is nothing keeping Napster from writing the software and the drivers so you can use their product with Mac OS X. Oh wait, there is... That other great crusader for the rights of the poor, downtrodden iPod users, namely MS is the reason why you can't use Napster on a Mac.
You see, Napster is based on WMA, and almost none of the WMA DRM is compatible with Mac OS X's version of Windows Media Player. It seems Microsoft doesn't want to allow their Mac customers to have much choice in music either. It seems that like everyone but TEBAA, ”choice“ is defined as ”You have to use Windows“.
In fact, from what I can tell, there is only one major music store that gives users on multiple platforms the access to the full range of its features...the iTMS. Maybe TEBAA aren't so evil after all. At least they're up front about what they support and why, unlike the spinmeisters at Real and the WMA team at MS, who are just bullshitting everyone about this, and not even doing a good job of hiding it. Bray also had a curious statement in the article: ”Songs purchased from iTunes can be played only on a limited number of computers,...“ I'm really curious as to his definition of ”limited“, since the iTMS is accessible from essentially any computer that is running Mac OS X, Windows 2000, or Windows XP.
If we are to go by that definition, then Sony/Napster/Real are even *more* limited, since Mac OS X users can't use any of those services. But hey, when you're spinning like a Maytag, who has time for facts or reality, or all the information. I'm kind of depressed really, I used to enjoy reading Bray's articles. I may not have agreed with them, but he always presented the whole story, good and bad. I'm hoping this is just an aberration. Once again, you have a loud nimrod suckering a bunch of people into buying his story hook line and sinker, and no one seems to be doing any damned analysis. Glaser uses the right buzzwords and BAM, he's a hero. The fact that he's completely full of crap doesn't seem to matter, because he said what the sheep wanted to hear.
I'm just surprised that Real's predatory past has been so roundly ignored here. Then again, what am I saying...the computer press ignore facts for a big headline surprises me? Feh, just another day on the Mac Web. (Note: This is based on a letter I emailed to Bray a few days ago. I was hoping to get some sort of response so that I could include it with this article, but I haven't yet, so I didn't.)| Comments ()