Google: it’s time to get Real

Google: it’s time to get Real

Summary: In my previous post, I alluded to some of the issues that might prevent an average consumer -- "Joe Sixpack", John Q. Public, or Jane Doe from migrating to Linux on the desktop.



In my previous post, I alluded to some of the issues that might prevent an average consumer -- "Joe Sixpack", John Q. Public, or Jane Doe from migrating to Linux on the desktop. One of them, without any doubt, is the lack of a way to integrate with Apple's iTunes service and play the DRM-restricted content downloaded from it on a Linux-based PC.

Let's face it, Apple has its users locked in big time. In order to download software from Apple's iTunes store, you have to use the iTunes application. In order to use the iTunes application and downloaded songs from that service with a portable device, you need to have an iPod or an iPhone. Do we see something wrong with this picture? Yes, I think we do.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

Fundamentally, I don't have a big problem with DRM, provided it is used is to protect the rights of the content producers and not to restrict the rights of legitimate consumers of that content. Music and other digital content which is sold on the Internet needs to be restricted to the purchasers of that content, and music artists, authors and movie studios have a right to be paid for their work, and it shouldn't be able to be freely copied to anyone who wants it unless the rights to that content is willingly released to somebody else. In other words, let's say I pay for download a song, a movie, or an ebook which I have unlimited rights to play, read or view. But if I want to give it away to  my wife, my friend, or someone else, and release my rights to playing it on my device, as I would with giving a piece of physical media I have purchased to someone else, such as a CD, a DVD or a book, that should be possible as well.

Of course, with iTunes, there's no way you can do this, and you certainly can't play content purchased on Apple's service on your DVR, on your Blackberry, a Linux PC, or some other non-Apple or non-iTunes compatible device. At least not legally and not without going thru some sort of quasi-hackerish procedure involving decoding and re-encoding and incantation of various magic spells and ritual animal sacrifices.

But the iPod/iPhone and iTunes are the most popular digital content player products and online music services in the world. Short of legal action brought forth by the courts to require Apple to open up its APIs to iTunes, who exactly is going to provide an alternative?

Microsoft tried to provide an alternative to the iPod with the Zune. And we know how well that worked out. But as Master Yoda once said "There is another."

Much like I proposed that Amazon should abandon its own Kindle software platform with an "OpenKindle" and join forces with Google to create a "Kindroid", I think that Google should take its Android OS, partner with major consumer electronics manufacturers such as Sony, Samsung, LG and Toshiba, and create "DroidPlayers". In other words, the Google equivalent to the iPod Touch, but on Droid ‘Roids.

I envision a class of device in the $150 to $250 range, with a 32GB or 64GB flash drive or a 120GB hard disk, running Android and a color LCD touchscreen, with built-in Wi-fi, and a modified version of the stack running currently on T-Mobile's G1 optimized for playing digital media and games. And the secret weapon? Google goes out and buys RealNetworks to pair with it.

Yes, it sounds a little nutty -- but think about it. If Android is going to be a competitor to the iPhone and the iPod, Google needs to get into the online music and content sales business. With RealNetworks as part of the Google family, Android, Linux, Windows and Mac users -- as well as existing iPod owners -- would have access to the Rhapsody service, not to mention that Android would inherit the mature and Open Source Helix multimedia framework and all the Real codecs and RealPlayer, which already runs on Linux, Windows, the Mac, and a number of other mobile devices such as Nokia's webpads and also Symbian.  So whatever music you've bought on Rhapsody -- now integrated with your online Google account -- would run on a potentially huge range of devices. All with Google's backing and financial stability. I can just see Apple's executive staff wetting their pants at the thought of Google taking direct aim at the iPod with a huge multivendor alliance and an invigorated Rhapsody service backed by a multibillion dollar company.

Google, are you listening? It's time to get Real. Networks, that is.  Talk Back and Let me know.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Google, Hardware, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • do it

    do it

    options = success
  • I don't necessarily buy your argument Jason

    "Let???s face it, Apple has its users locked in big time. In
    order to download software from Apple???s iTunes store, you
    have to use the iTunes application. In order to use the
    iTunes application and downloaded songs from that service
    with a portable device, you need to have an iPod or an
    iPhone. Do we see something wrong with this picture? Yes,
    I think we do."

    The points you elude to have been sung many times over
    by people who love LINUX and unfortunately take it to the
    point of zealotry. This is why in 2008 cut & paste on a
    LINUX desktop doesn't consistently work (something I
    experienced today as I tried to cut some text from Firefox
    and paste it into an xterm). That's because the X Window
    System which is what *NIX GUI desktops are founded on is
    one splintered mess - no notion of common controls (aka
    widgets in X land) like the Macintosh or Microsoft
    Windows and dozens upon dozens of window managers
    offering no consistency.

    Honestly, Jane & Joe SixPack aren't interested in such high
    maintenance desktops.

    Moving back to your music players, the lack of choice in
    some cases can have significant downsides... such as the
    case when you discover Comcr@p is the only way you can
    get high speed Internet service.

    But in the case of a music player, I don't see this as
    comparable to a more critical baseline need such as high
    speed Internet service. Go buy a Zune and buy MP3s from
    Amazon. No DRM, no iPod, no iTunes.

    • Competition is needed in the market place, for sure ...

      ... who knows, one day we may even get decent music again too - now that I don't mind paying for one iota ....
  • It's time to get real for YOU, Jason ...

    YACW (yet Another Clueless Writer ...)

    You live in the USA, right, Jason? So you should know that the one and only reason for the existence of a company is profit, money, $$$, the more the better.

    1. Microsoft uses its monopoly-like power to make s***loads of money. Obviously, their goal is to maintain that situation by putting Windows on everything and the kitchen sink.
    2. Google makes money through ad-clicks. Their goal is to broaden their reach, that's why they want to be on the iPhone, Android and every browser-equipped device.
    3. Apple runs the biggest e-musicstore worldwide by a wide margin, and despite that doesn't make any money.

    Now tell me how:
    1. Google would make money on a music store
    2. How having a music store would breaden Google's reach?

    BTW, half of the tracks on iTunes are DRM-free, so you can move them to whatever device you like.
    • Two Points to your argument.


      3. Apple does not make money from iTunes. But it uses it as a leverage to make money from selling iPods.

      4. Google does not make money from gmail or even search. Its only when someone clicks on an advert does Google make money.

      So in answer.

      1. Who is to say Google has to make money on a music store? Apple don't.
      2. In exactly the same way as Apple, by offering discounted or a free service. Thus getting its OS on more devices and ensuring it maintains or increases market share by way of leverage.

      (Seriously dude, you answered your own question and didn't realise! LOL)
      • Google doesn't need to buy market share

        That's essentially what Jason's saying:
        1. Buy a music service (Rhapsody ? LOL!) = spend money
        2. Make a music player = spend money
        3. Offer some "free service" = spend money
        ... and all that for the sake of market share?

        (Hey dude, you don't get rich by buying market share. Ever heard of
        "margins" or "revenue"? Jason's proposal for me is a nonsensical market-
  • They also need to buy Ubuntu. Ubuntu + Real + Google Brand would

    result in a critical mass of adoption for the Linux Desktop.

    And, the beauty is that Google does not have to make one penny on any of these properties in and of themselves.
    • Let's also not forget Intuit should be on the list.

      Google could incorporate it into Google Apps.
      • Intuit would be a good purchase as well.

        Definitely would be nice to have Quickbooks/Quicken as part of Google's online portfolio.
        • Yes, the only problem would be the price. Intuit is doing very well right

          now. But, in Google's battle for the small business, an Intuit buy would be brilliant, and worth every penny. Google could even beat MS at their own game starting out with a "software plus services" version of Intuit products integrated with Google Apps.
    • Google doesnt NEED to buy Canonical

      Google could buy Canonical to make Ubuntu an official Google project, but it probably doesn't have to. It could spin its own version of Ubuntu, or partner with Canonical to do Ubuntu Google Edition.

      There's many things Canonical/Ubuntu and Google can do together that wouldnt require a financial merger and culture incorporation.

      Real is probably an easy purchase to make for Google because the company market cap is so low. Shuttleworth probably has a VERY high price for Canonical, I would imagine at least a billion dollars or more.
      • True, they could partner with Ubuntu, but, we need a Google branded version

        of Ubuntu, that features all of the Google applications, and codecs for all of the different file types.

        Of course, Google MUST avoid to appear heavy handed and make sure that in any case, the non Google branded versions of Ubuntu continue to be available.

        How about a downloadable ISO to burn a CD to Upgrade any Ubuntu PC with the Google pack. Before using, you have to pay a small fee for any licenses on the codecs.
  • It's about the search and advertising

    My bet: Google would do it if it could integrate it into a search-based model and earn revenues from advertising sales.

    Could RealNetworks/RealPlayer truly become a search tool for entertainment media? Is there adequate build-out in Real to generate more advertising space and sales that don't cannibalize other Google ad revenues? Can Real be cracked open at no risk to this model, so that developers on the outside can build components that will enhance Real and increase traffic (a la Android)? Can other Google products be readily integrated into this mix for a more seamless Google experience?

    And would the acquisition and integration be less expensive than Google simply building its own? I tend to think this is the real question: can they build it faster and cheaper without getting Real?
  • RE: Animal Sacrifice

    Seriously, is that the step I have been missing to playing my pirated downloads on my cracked iPod?
  • RE: Google: it's time to get Real

    Real Networks sucks. Always spying.
    Intrusive. Many of us steer well clear of anything discharged from "Real".com.
    Evidence the RealAlt player.

    If Google wants to jump into the iPod fray, they'd be better off NOT buying junk like 'Real', and coming up with their own version that is just right, right from the start.
    Google is best when it does things it's own way, right from the start.
    Google Earth
    Google Docs
    Google SketchUp
    • Google Earth was not homegrown

      [B]"Google is best when it does things it's own way, right from the start."[/b]

      It was a company called Keyhole.

      Google also bought Blogger.

      Google also bought Youtube because Google Video wasn't as good.

      Google has purchased DoubleClick.

      Picasa was also a purchase:


      Google is a company that expands thru acquisition more than it does via internal development. And remember, Android wasn't homegrown either. It was bought.
      • And, Chrome has innovative home grown features, but, is largely based on

        the work of others. Google understands very well when they should not reinvent the wheel.
      • Real is a Pig

        Agree whole heartedly with jperlow. In addition, Real is a resource hog. If Google acquires Real, they will have to strip out a lot of crap and run it in the cloud before I'll ever touch it.
      • Lucky people, I'd love to sell to Google

        They have deep pockets :)
  • RE: Google: it??????s time to get Real

    I think that would be an awesome idea, or something close to it. However, in the time being, I'm sticking to my iPod Touch.