RealNetworks Inc. is launching a Web-based version of its Rhapsody subscription music service, becoming the latest company hoping to capitalize on growing consumer interest in software and services that can be accessed anywhere via the Internet.
The Web-based Rhapsody service will let users listen to the songs from its catalog over the Internet without downloading the desktop application that is currently required. That will open up Seattle-based RealNetworks' service to people using Apple Computer Inc. or Linux-based systems.
The system, which is launching today in test form, also makes it easier for people who already have the service to use it when they aren't at their own computers. However, the Web-based Rhapsody will only let people stream the music. Anyone wishing to download and buy a song will still need to have the Rhapsody application on a personal computer.
Rhapsody lets people listen to as many as 25 songs a month for free, or an unlimited number if they buy one of its paid programs.
RealNetworks Chief Executive Rob Glaser said the company wouldn't be disappointed if most people using the Web-based service chose to listen only to their free allotment of songs, rather than buying a subscription.
"If it turns out the vast majority decide they want to listen for free, that's great because the Internet advertising market is doing pretty well too," he said.
Along with its new Web offering, RealNetworks also unveiled the first step toward longer-term plans to get other companies to use the Rhapsody service on their sites. For example, a website devoted to the songwriter Elliott Smith might eventually be able to offer users the chance to listen to Smith's songs on their site, via Rhapsody.
For now, however, Glaser said the service will be able only to offer a link from another site to the Rhapsody service, and users will have to log in with a Rhapsody account to hear the songs.