Real Networks Spins Off Rhapsody (Which Leaves What, Exactly?)

For Viacom, Real Networks' partner in the Rhapsody venture, a spinoff is a chance to get rid of a bleeding appendage. For Real, it's like losing a failing - but vital - organ.

Ever since people stopped needing the RealPlayer plugin for anything other than streaming reports from their town's third most popular local news station, and replaced RealPlayer with iTunes, Windows Media Player, VLC, MediaPlayer Classic or pretty much anything else, Rhapsody has effectively been Real Networks' thing. I mean, what else did they have? Their DVD ripping software was killed by the courts. RealArcade is fine, but marginal. Their video and audio streaming tech is outmoded, at least outside of Rhapsody, and last month, their founder and CEO stepped down after 15 years at the helm.

It's hard to say what'll happen to Rhapsody now, given that it won't have Viacom's resources and connections to fall back on, and that some of Rhapsody's more visible marketing - namely their partnership with MTV - will probably dissolve. Maybe they'll even move to distinguish the Rhapsody client from Real, I don't know. But at least Rhapsody has Rhapsody. RealNetworks, as it stands, has somewhere over 1500 employees (though it's not clear how many could be sent to Rhapsody). What are they doing? I don't know what's Real anymore. [MediaMemo]

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