Real gets it right.
I never thought I’d hear myself say those words.
Disclaimer: I haven’t tried it myself, and I’m sure it’s got plenty of flaws. You don’t need to tell me about all of them. But hear me out.
Real has finally one thing right (being a first for Real since the company’s inception, this is a big event):
With their newest update to their Rhapsody service, they’re supporting multiple codecs, even those made by their competitors.
They even have Rhapsody To Go now which supports “janus” Windows Media DRM devices (like my Zen Micro or the iRiver H10), which is essentially Napster’s “To Go“ service, except not.
They also seem to have updated their “Harmony” support for the iPod, meaning that users of Apple’s crippled MP3 players can buy music from Real and listen to it on their devices… that is, until Apple realizes that someone is trying to give their customers an actual choice and once again releases a firmware upgrade that kills Harmony.
Unfortunately, Rhapsody To Go still won’t work on an iPod. And it seems that it probably never will, given Steve Jobs’ attitude toward subscription models.
But it’s good to see someone in the industry catching on. The codec wars have got to be one of the most anti-user phenomena I’ve ever seen.
By supporting the greatest number of media codecs that you can, you reduce the chance that one of your customers or potential customers is going to find your product useless, or become frustrated when it only works with some of their media.
The thinking behind a lot of the current strategies is that: If we make people like our codec, they’ll use it for all their stuff. Well newsflash: Most of my media wasn’t encoded by me. And I’m not just talking about the more nefarious methods of obtaining media in a format beyond your control, though the number of people who have that problem these days is huge. I’m also talking about: Media encoded by a device (DVR box, portable player/recorder, Media Center, roommate’s Mac, digital camcorder) or downloaded from another source (movie/game trailers, podcasts/videoblogs, news clips, videos sent by family/friends, etc). And then there are the 3 different legal DRM’d music download distributions, and un-DRM’d music distributors (like livephish and DMB’s live trax – which use unprotected FLAC, mp3, and wma).
Get it out of your marketing genius head that I’m even ABLE to have all of my media in your format. That’s just not going to happen. So if you want me to use your product, do what Real has done here. Do what made Xbox Media Center (the homebrew one) so popular… Support every format that I might find a file in. Every single one.