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Readers speak: Who's right in iPod fight?

reader feedback RealNetworks' reverse engineering of Apple's music player puts two tech passions at loggerheads.

reader feedback RealNetworks created a dilemma for Apple Computer fans when it "reverse engineered" Apple's iPod digital music player, putting two of the tech community's most passionate loves--for Apple and interoperability--at loggerheads.

CNET asked: Which side wins out?

The responses came down fairly heavily on Apple's side, though it was hard to tell whether that reflected agreement with the Mac maker's argument or general favor for the company.

"The simple fact is that Apple has a (dominant) position in the digital music market, because they offer a product, the iPod, and a service, the iTunes Music Store, that are far superior and a must-have for consumers," Craig Nori wrote. "Beating your competition by building a better product and offering superior service should be applauded. And it's the complete opposite of Microsoft's way of doing business."

Ron Stark wrote: "Apple deserves to reap the benefits of its labors without having someone else nose in on their work."

One reader pointed out that "if an individual had done something like this--say, to create a driver allowing people to watch DVDs on Linux systems--they would be dragged off to jail."

Not everyone came down on Apple's side, however. Some warned that Apple has been down this path before, and it hasn't always ended well for the company.

"By not taking advantage of their lead, Apple is going to doom itself to irrelevance yet again, just like they did with the Mac," another reader wrote. "They didn't want to license; they wanted to control both the hardware and the software. Where did that get them? Three to 5 percent of the market share, that's where."

Others pooh-poohed the predictions of Apple's demise.

"Apple has been on the forefront of many technological advancements lately, digital music being only one of them. Apple will continue to focus on producing the most technologically advanced product on the marketplace in conjunction with their 'exclusive' motif," Mike Kruger wrote.

"Apple will not license its FairPlay DRM (digital rights management)," he added. "They are too concerned about the entire product--how software and hardware interact. Someone will come out with an MP3 player that will be cheaper and maybe be superior, but it won't bother Apple. Then more pundits will predict Apple's downfall, but they will survive."