RealNetworks restructures to offer integrated service

RealNetworks is to merge its RealPlayer and Music Services business units into a single group so that the teams can collaborate...

RealNetworks is to merge its RealPlayer and Music Services business units into a single group so that the teams can collaborate on developing new products and services.

The merged unit will bring together teams from RealPlayer, RealPlayer Music Store, RadioPass and Rhapsody, all divisions of the company.

The new unit will be led by Robert Acker, currently vice-president of the RealPlayer business unit, focused on the company's flagship digital media playback software.

Current Music Services vice-president Sean Ryan will leave the company later this month, however, "to pursue new business opportunities".

Ryan came to Real when it bought music startup Listen.com last year. Through the acquisition, Real gained Listen's Rhapsody music service, which it has been building up as part of its digital music strategy.

The decision to merge the groups follows Real's recent move to take on Apple's iTunes Music Store by offering music from its own online store that could play on Apple's iPod devices, using Real's new Harmony technology.

After raising the ire of Apple by reverse-engineering the digital rights management technology used in iTunes and the iPod, Real further agitated the rivalry by launching a three-week music sale that offered tracks and albums at half the price that iTunes charges.

Real cited the success of that sale, during which it claims to have sold over three million songs, as part of the impetus to merge its software and music services units, saying that it realised it needed to take a more integrated approach to capturing the digital music market.

It emphasised, however, that RealPlayer's video playback functions will not be diminished by the company's new focus on music. That said, Acker has a radio background, and was a founding member of XM Satellite Radio where he helped the company to develop consumer satellite radios.

Scarlet Pruitt writes for IDG News Service

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