iPhone App Store to get Rhapsody subscription music?

Is the App Store about to get a RealNetworks Rhapsody subscription music app for iPhone and iPod Touch? In IT Blogwatch, bloggers wonder whether Apple would even think about approving such a thing.

By Richi Jennings. August 25, 2009.

(AAPL) (RNWK)

Your humble blogwatcher has selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention an 8-bit trip...

Harry McCracken is excited:

RealNetworks’ Rhapsody is a very nicely done music service. But like all subscription music offerings it’s been profoundly hobbled by the fact that it’s incompatible with iPods, the devices that dominate portable digital music. That’s about to change. Sort of. Maybe.

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Rhapsody could be what none of the many third-party music apps for the iPhone have been to date: a plausible full-blown iTunes substitute. Might a meaningful percentage of folks who spend $15 a month for 15 iTunes tracks prefer to invest the same amount of money in a service that lets them listen to everything it offers, for as long as they keep paying the monthly fee?
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Rik Myslewski spots a fly in the ointment:

Apple has another embarrassment brewing, as its secretive App Store guardians ponder whether to allow an app from RealNeworks onto the Store's virtual shelves. ... no one outside of Cupertino knows whether or not Apple will grant the application a place in the iTunes App Store. If Apple's acceptance guidelines were clearer, and if Cupertino's record on which applications it takes and which it doesn't were more predictable, we could make an educated guess. But they're not and it isn't..

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The Rhapsody application most definitely competes with Apple's iTunes store, allowing access to tunes without paying Apple for that privilege. But it also provides music-lovers with another reason to buy an iPhone or iPod touch: access to a popular music-subscription service and itch-scratcher. ... You can also almost hear the giggling at RealNetworks. ... By loudly pre-announcing the Rhapsody app, they've put pressure on Cupertino to not anger its fans yet again.
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Daniel Ionescu elaborates:

The big question now is whether or not Apple views the Rhapsody iPhone app as duplicating features offered by the iPhone, confusing users, and presenting a privacy problem. These were all factors Apple outlined on Friday for rejecting Google Voice iPhone app.
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Real's Lacy Kemp giggles, probably:

We know not everyone who uses an iPhone is a Rhapsody subscriber, but we think the app will appeal to anyone who has an affinity for music. Subscribers can just log in to the app with their existing user name and password and the experience will be seamless. Non-subscribers will have the opportunity to try the app for a limited time free-trial period.

  We are working diligently on an Android app and once we’re done there, we plan to turn our sights on more mobile platform and carrier app stores. In the mean time, start getting your playlists ready in Rhapsody and Rhapsody.com. Music is about to get a whole lot better.
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Peter Rojas has screenshots:

What you get is nothing less than full access to everything in Rhapsody's catalog, including over eight million tracks, all of its radio stations, and the ability to create playlists on the fly. (The app also syncs with your account, so you can listen to playlists you've already created or browse music you've saved to your collection.) It's like being able to store several million tracks on your iPhone or iPod touch. Well, when you're online, that is -- and that's the other problem.

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Rhapsody's app lacks offline capability. That means you can't cache tracks for later listening, but Real says a 2.0 version with this feature is planned ... (assuming that Apple doesn't freak out), something which would make this app very compelling.
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But Erick Schonfeld thinks it will be a "dud":

It is a great product, don’t get me wrong. But paying $15 a month for unlimited access to Rhapsody’s Web jukebox appeals to a very limited niche audience. ... Rhapsody America ... only had 750,000 paying subscribers at the end of June, and that was down 50,000 from the March quarter. In early August, Rhapsody laid off 12 people, or 9 percent of its workforce. Now it really seems to betting on this mobile thing, so getting on the iPhone is pretty important.

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Of course, Rhapsody has its own MP3 download music store, which Apple doesn’t like one bit. But, like I said, nobody is going to use this app anyway. So Apple can approve it and use it as an example that it is pro-competition the next time the FCC comes calling, while not really risking much of anything at all.
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So what's your take?
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email: itblogwatch@richij.com.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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