RealNetworks and iriver have announced the launch of the clix Rhapsody, a version of iriver’s portable media player which is optimized to integrate with Real’s subscription-based digital music service. The new features focus on music discovery, such as automatic updates that deliver personalized play-lists each time a user connects to the service, as well as the ability to rate songs, albums and artists directly on the device. The partnership follows a similar arrangement between Real and SanDisk for the later’s Sansa Rhapsody player.
It’s interesting to see a number of hardware manufacturers align themselves so closely with Real, in an attempt to create devices which work seamlessly with the Rhapsody service. The upside is, in theory at least, that — like with iPod/iTunes — the user experience should be greater as both companies can control all of the pieces and fully integrate the hardware and software. This is also the reasoning behind Microsoft’s abandonment of its ‘PlayForSure’ partners when the company launched its Zune platform. The downside is a lack of choice for consumers, where each device is tied to a single paid-for music service. However, the success of Apple’s iPod strategy would suggest that users will take ease-of-use and simplicity over choice, anytime, and that’s assuming that most people get their music from paid-for digital music services in the first place. Which, of course, we know they don’t.