Several major music labels have already used a version of the British company'son prerelease compact discs distributed for review and other early-listening purposes, including on recent albums from Eminem and U2.
The releases for the retail market, expected early in 2005, will mark the first time the Sony music label issues copy-protected CDs in the U.S. market, although the company's other divisions have done so in other regions. BMG, Sony's new corporate sibling, has been more aggressive, with a handful of protected CDs released last year.
Meanwhile, Apple Computer quietly updated its iPod software so that songs purchased from RealNetworks' online music store willon some of the Mac maker's popular MP3 players.
For the last four months, RealNetworks has marketed its music store as the only Apple rival compatible with the iPod, following the company's discovery of a way to let its customers play their downloaded tunes on Apple's digital music player. Apple criticized RealNetworks' workaround, dubbed Harmony, as the "tactics...of a hacker," and warned in July that RealNetworks-purchased songs would likely "cease to work with current and future iPods."
Apple's iPod may be getting a hard-drive boost soon. Toshiba, whose tiny hard drives power Apple's music players, announced that it has. The company said it will begin mass production in mid-2005 of new 1.8-inch drives, with capacities of 40GB and 80GB.
Apple did not immediately announce plans to incorporate the drives in future products, but new iPod configurations have closely tracked Toshiba hard-drive developments. Toshiba announced plans for a 60GB hard drive in June, followed a few months later by Apple's unveiling of a 60GB color-screen iPod.