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Are Amazon and Real one-upping Apple?

Twice this week, I've engaged in conversations about Apple missing the boat on potentially sweet markets that would have fit right into its iTunes growth strategy.The first conversation came after the release of the Kindle-DX, which apparently has a pretty healthy legion of fans who are big on e-books.
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Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive on

Twice this week, I've engaged in conversations about Apple missing the boat on potentially sweet markets that would have fit right into its iTunes growth strategy.

The first conversation came after the release of the Kindle-DX, which apparently has a pretty healthy legion of fans who are big on e-books. I posted an entry earlier this week that said - for the money - Apple's iPod Touch is a better buy than then Kindle but readers were quick to defend the Kindle.

E-books aren't on iTunes - unless you count ebook apps, as well as a Kindle app, for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Steve Jobs didn't see the potential. in a blog post I came across this morning, author Mike Elgan said Jobs got it all wrong about e-books and linked back to a New York Times interview with the Apple CEO in early 2008. Talking about the Kindle, Jobs says:

It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore. Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.

A lot of my readers this week would strongly disagree with that statement.

My other conversation about Apple missing the boat came yesterday after Real Networks reported pretty dismal first quarter results. It was during a call with analysts that CEO Rob Glaser talked about a forthcoming product, code-named Facet. It a nutshell, it's a digital video jukebox for the TV, a device that will include RealDVD technology.

You may recall that the RealDVD software, which is under lockdown pending the outcome of a lawsuit with the Motion Picture Association of America, allows for the "ripping" of DVD movies into a computer or other devices. That ripping technology appears to be a part of the new device - according to references to it in court documents. (See image)

Real's Facet sounds a lot like AppleTV, a WiFi-powered digital media jukebox that plays back content that you purchase or rent, as well as your own video ciips, Apple continues to treat Apple TV as a "hobby" product, though it recently acknowledged some interest in the movie rental business.

Also see: Analyst: 6.6 million AppleTV units in 2009; an Apple-connected TV on the horizon

But Real has one up on Apple in this game - the ability to upload copies of the DVD for playback on a number of devices. Once I thought about it, I realized that Real's DVD-ripping technology is something that Apple should have come up with and put into iTunes. That's where everything else is, including the digital tracks of my CD collection that iTunes allowed me to rip.

I don't know that Facet will be able to gain much traction as a hardware device. Another box connected to the TV is a hard sell. Still, side-by-side against Apple TV with the DVD ripping technology - assuming Real wins the lawsuit - Facet with RealDVD puts Real ahead of Apple's offering.

Closing arguments for the preliminary injunction hearings in the Real-MPAA case will be held later this month.

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