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Microsoft’s jukebox play, in addition to giving Real founder Rob Glaser a run for his money, could provide at least a momentary distraction from Gates’ difficulties with the Department of Justice.
MICROSOFT VS. REAL: BATTLE OF THE JUKEBOXES
The Pissing, Er, Streaming Contest Continues
March 27, 2000

Battling to prevail in the high-stakes quest for digital-music dominance, Real Networks and Microsoft made some splashy announcements this week.

As soon as the Napster decision and the Artist Direct IPO stories die down, maybe someone will read them.

Real made much of its claim that one billion songs had been recorded or played by users of its RealJukebox. The number, the company reported, was calculated by the number of "lookups" on the CDDB database.

Considering that the option is counting the songs ourselves, we’ll take their word for it. Whether this amount deserves to be labeled an "historic milestone"—to cite the release’s headline—is another story. Meanwhile, Real also announced nine international editions of its RealPlayer 7 and RealJukebox; the players will now be available with interfaces in German, French, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Korean and two "variations of Chinese" (presumably Cantonese and Mandarin).

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is apparently trying to convince one of the Chinese versions not to invade the other.

Meanwhile, Microsoft touted the release of its all-in-one Windows Media Player 7, which it claims offers "the first fully integrated digital media experience," which includes single-button CD duplication, streaming and downloading of audio and video and customizable media file organization. Gates’ folks also announced a deal with Alliance Entertainment to license the All Music Guide database into the player.

Microsoft’s jukebox play, in addition to giving Real founder and ex-Microserf Rob Glaser a run for his money, could provide at least a momentary distraction from Gates’ difficulties with the Department of Justice. After Bill’s settlement offer was greeted with derisive laughter by DOJ, watchers began predicting a more extensive set of restrictions on the software giant’s practices in lieu of a breakup order.

Interestingly, Gates’ olive branch consisted mainly of an offer to unbundle Internet Explorer from Windows, allowing competition from other browsers. This was hardly enough for DOJ. But the timing was fortuitous, as main competitor Netscape debuted its latest version last week.

Will Microsoft’s media moves compensate for its antitrust difficulties? Will Real retain the lead? You got us. But if it streams, rest assured we’ll be standing under the spray.

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