Dear Kevin Foreman: Open the Store to Linux

I’m a little pissed. In this slashdot story, Kevin Foreman, GM of Helix RealNetworks, Inc states that Real has paid Thomson for the right to legally distribute an mp3 player for the Linux platform. They then include that right at no cost to the users. He goes on to say, and I quote: “…we are glad to do our part of making the Linux desktop a first class citizen by legally providing MP3 playback to users via our new RealPlayer”. I find this really ironic given some things I found on Real’s website…

There are probably 100 mp3 players available for Linux. XMMS, Rhythmbox, JuK, Zinf… the list goes on for days. With the exception of Redhat/Fedora, Linux distributions come with at least 3 or four different players capable of playing mp3 files. It also comes with applications to convert files to mp3, ogg, flac, etc., and rip tracks from a CD in almost any conceivable format. So as far as mp3 support goes, we Linux users didn’t need Real to do us any favors, but thanks all the same.

What Linux is totally missing is support for a music store application. iTunes integrates with the Apple music store, but iTunes doesn’t run on Linux. RealPlayer runs on Linux, but the store part of RealPlayer is nowhere to be found. Perusing the Real website, it seems that in order to use the store, you have to be running “Windows ’98 or better”.

I’ve been writing about this for probably two years now: the RIAA is suing people and trying to steer them toward legal download sites, but none of those sites are accessible to people in any kind of generic way: every site requires one player or another, and the combination of player and store support has yet to make it to Linux. My request is to either offer the file downloads as generic files playable on anything (won’t happen, no DRM control in generic files yet), or make the store available universally on all platforms. This has yet to happen.

Real has absolutely no right to claim that they’re doing anything to make Linux a “first class citizen” on the desktop, given that it’s not even a first class citizen to RealPlayer, Inc itself. That distinction is apparently held only for the platform which has caused RealPlayer nothing but grief for most of its existence: Microsoft Windows — as that is the only platform that is universally supported by every Real product.