RealNetworks submits Rhapsody music-streaming app to Apple's iPhone

'We have no reason to believe it won't be approved,' says RealNetworks

RealNetworks Inc. today said that it will submit its Rhapsody music-streaming application for the iPhone to Apple Inc. this week, perhaps as early as today.

The application, which is designed to run on both the iPhone and the iPod Touch, lets Rhapsody subscribers listen to any of the 8-million-plus tracks the service offers, call up saved albums and tune into any of Rhapsody's ready-to-go playlists.

Users will be able to stream music to both the iPhone and the iPod Touch via a Wi-Fi connection; iPhone users can also connect via AT&T's EDGE and 3G data networks in the U.S. Only people who subscribe to the $14.99-per-month Rhapsody to Go plan can use the iPhone/iPod Touch application; customers paying $12.99 per month for the Rhapsody Unlimited plan are ineligible.

"That's part of our deal with the record labels," RealNetworks spokesman Ryan Luckin said today.

The Rhapsody iPhone application will be a free download for subscribers. And to tempt others to try the service, RealNetworks plans to offer a limited-time trial -- one that runs for seven to 14 days, Luckin said, although details have not been nailed down.

RealNetworks' pricing strategy is similar to the one that Sirius XM Radio adopted in June when it launched its free iPhone/iPod Touch application to stream most, though not all, of its "stations" to the iPhone and the iPod Touch. Sirius XM's demand that existing subscribers pony up an additional $2.99 per month to use the application didn't sit well with its customers, who lampooned the idea in scores of negative reviews on Apple's App Store.

Rhapsody on the iPhone will only work in online mode, and because of limitations on Apple's devices, it won't play music in the background while the hardware is being used for other tasks, such as browsing or making phone calls. In the second version of the software, RealNetworks plans to add an offline mode, which will cache tunes on the device for later playing.

Luckin said he didn't have any idea when Apple might approve Rhapsody for the iPhone. "It's a sit-and-wait game," he said, but he noted that other submissions from RealNetworks have had a "fast turnaround."

Regarding its chances of being approved for the App Store, Luckin was optimistic. "We have no reason to believe that it won't be approved," he said.

Approval by Apple is not guaranteed, as other iPhone developers have found out. For example, Google Inc.'s integrated telephone service, Google Voice, has recently been in limbo for several weeks. Last Friday, in a reply to an FCC inquiry launched at the end of July, Apple denied that it had rejected Google Voice and said it was still "pondering" the submission.

Apple told the FCC that it has not approved Google Voice because "it appears to alter the iPhone's distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone's core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voice mail."

Previously, Apple has told developers that it rejected their applications for the iPhone because they duplicated one or more built-in features of the iPhone or the iPod Touch. Both devices link to Apple's iTunes music store to download tracks, and they play tunes synchronized from a user's collection on a Mac or PC. Apple does not offer a subscription-based music streaming service, however.

A developer whose Google-Voice-related application was yanked from the App Store a month ago has blasted Apple for the move and again criticized the app review process last weekend.

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