There was quite a stir when Real announced that they would make songs for their new online music service available for use on iPods. What made this so provocative was that their music service uses Digital Rights Management (DRM) to prevent copying, exactly as Apple does with FairPlay and Microsoft does with their own scheme. However, Apple didn’t license FairPlay to Real.
That was the rub. Real was maintaining DRM without a license to use FairPlay. In order to accomplish this feat, they reverse engineered FairPlay. They got to use software that Apple supplied without paying for it in some way. The fact that Apple didn’t want to license at any price is a moot point. They are the legal owners and it is their decision whether to sell licenses or not. Just because I’m not willing to sell my car to you doesn’t give you the right to jack it.
Well, it should come as no surprise that Apple has intentionally broken compatability with Real’s Harmony service with both changes in the iPod Photo’s firmware and the latest round of firmware updates to click-wheel iPods. Real itself knew this was coming, as did any well read user. However, many of Real’s customers may not have known this and may now be irrate that their music that previously played is now useless (at least until Real figures out how to remedy the situation). First they’ll blame Apple for breaking their iPod (even though it’s not broken at all) and then they’ll come to loathe Real as they find out iTunes songs and MP3’s play fine. The true loser in this situation is going to be Real, having committed themselves to a goal that is not only underhanded but nearly impossible to ever achieve over the long run.