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SanDisk readies Rhapsody-branded music player

Anti-iTunes, Zune manoeuvre

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SanDisk will today announce a digital music player that not only supports RealNetworks' Rhapsody song subscription service, but is branded to match the RealNetworks' offering, it has been claimed.

According to an Associate Press report, the player, dubbed the Sansa Rhapsody, is a co-branded version of SanDisk's e200 player line. SanDisk's players are offered with 2-8GB of Flash memory, but it's not yet clear what song-storage capacity the Rhapsody-branded version will have. The Sansa Rhapsody is also expected to ship with hundreds of songs from Rhapsody's subscription package.

The deal follows a similar tie-up between RealNetworks and network music system maker Sonos, which last week announced a software update for its Digital Music System that adds direct support for Rhapsody's anti-piracy technology. Earlier this year, SlimDevices added Rhapsody support to its Squeezebox networked music player.

In each case, RealNetworks makes its iTunes-rival available on more hardware, and the device suppliers get to support another music format whose DRM technology might otherwise prevent playback.

For SanDisk, the deal strengthens its position against Microsoft now the software giant is entering the digital music market as a player as well as a technology supplier. SanDisk's players have long supported the Windows Media format, but with the imminent arrival of Zune, it finds itself competing directly with Microsoft. While Apple's iTunes Music Store remains a closed shop, SanDisk has little choice but to start its own online music service - as Samsung is doing, for instance - or partner with one.

The Rhapsody deal is advantageous as it creates some tie-in. The success of iTunes indicates many consumers really don't care too much about being tied into a single music platform - an assumption that clearly informs what Microsoft is doing with Zune. ®

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