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Apple heated over Real's Harmony

Apple Computer on Thursday issued an official statement on RealNetworks' Harmony software, which will allow users to play songs purchased from RealNetworks' music store on the iPod.

In the brief statement, Apple said, "We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the DMCA and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods."

In March of this year, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser exhorted Apple to open up the iPod to additional file formats during a panel discussion at PC Forum. Glaser said "that Apple is creating problems for itself by using a file format that forces consumers to buy music from Apple's own iTunes site. Because Apple's iPod music player does not support other proprietary music formats and does not license its own format to rivals, Real's Rhapsody and other song sites are blocked from easily reaching iPod users. Apple's (market) share will go down if they continue to do this."

With no favorable response from Apple, Glaser e-mailed Apple chief Steve Jobs a month later, pleading for the formation of a "strategic partnership" in which RealNetworks would obtain a license for Apple's Fairplay Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology. In return, Glaser said that RealNetworks would make the iPod its primary device for the Real music store and its RealPlayer software.

Apple was less than interested and quickly shot down RealNetworks' offer, also denying Glaser a meeting with CEO Steve Jobs to discuss the matter.

On Monday, RealNetworks announced its Harmony technology, that when released will allow users to play music bought and downloaded from its online music store on the iPod. To create Harmony, RealNetworks created a way to translate songs downloaded from Real's store from Real's Helix DRM scheme to an equivalent of Apple's FairPlay when loaded onto an iPod.

Earlier today, RealNetworks began threatening to license its Harmony Technology to the many digital online music stores.

In an anonymous e-mail to AppleInsider this morning, one source claims that Apple has already assembled a small software engineering team that will focus on disabling RealNetworks' hack.