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Real's Glaser exhorts Apple to open iPod

The CEO says Apple Computer is creating problems for itself by using a file format that forces consumers to buy music from the iTunes site.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.--RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser has a message for Apple Computer chief Steve Jobs: Open iPod or shrivel.

Glaser, the feisty founder of the Internet entertainment network, said during a panel discussion Tuesday at PC Forum here that Apple is creating problems for itself by using a file format that forces consumers to buy music from Apple's own iTunes site. (CNET Networks, publisher of News.com, last week acquired EDventures, which sponsors PC Forum.)

Because Apple's iPod music player does not support other proprietary music formats and does not license its own format to rivals, Real's Rhapsody and other song sites are blocked from easily reaching iPod users.

"Apple's (market) share will go down if they continue to do this. The only way to presently put songs on an iPod is to (buy) them from iTunes," Glaser said, referring to downloads purchased from online music stores. In addition to iTunes songs, the iPod can play files encoded in the MP3 format, including tracks ripped from CDs.

Hewlett-Packard, which has partnered with Apple on digital music, is in a position to persuade the company to change its practice, he said.

"There is a good opportunity to say to Steve, 'You've done a good job of promoting this thing, but now one of two bad things will happen,'" Glaser said. "One, Apple's market share will go down to its historical single-digit levels, or two, it will slow down the development of this market."

Glaser predicted that customers will say, "I bought an iPod and can only shop at one store. What is this? The Soviet Union?"

Shane Robison, chief technology officer of HP, shared the panel with Glaser and said diplomatically that discussions on many issues are always ongoing.

Apple could not be reached for comment.

Glaser also applauded actions taken by European regulators to limit Microsoft's ability to bundle technology into Windows. Real has been directly affected by the practice, because it makes a competing media player.

"I think it is a step in the right direction. It is not transcendent," he said. "The specific solutions have not been announced yet, but the outcome suggests that the European regulators did the right thing for the right reasons."

Glaser further said that the European Commission's ruling is not likely to exert massive political pressures because most of the companies directly affected by the decision--Sun Microsystems, RealNetworks and Apple, among others--are based in the United States. The commission, however, has said it entered the investigation on behalf of European citizens.

Microsoft, meanwhile, struck a deal with Major League Baseball to offer live audio and video on its networks. MLB used to have a partnership with RealNetworks.