updated 10:55 am EST, Thu January 5, 2006
HP abandons iTunes
Hewlett-Packard today is expected to announce that it will to stop distributing HP-branded iPod music players. Rhapsody is now expected to be the default music-playing software on HP's new PCs and laptops. Beginning in the spring of 2006, HP customers will get a free 30-day trial subscription to RealNetworks' Rhapsody, according to a report from CNET. Additionally, RealNetworks may find further opportunity in the new deal to continue its drive into music services beyond PCs. The rocky relationship between Apple and Hewlett-Packard wore thin after Apple's own iPod overshadowed HP's special branded model. [updated]
"HP is committed to bringing consumers the best PC entertainment experience," HP general manager Bob Lund stated. The computer maker wished to provide "easy access to a leading subscription music experience."
Sheeran said RealNetworks was especially attracted to HP after looking at the company's plans for home entertainment devices, despite the fact that the current deal only extends to HP's consumer laptops and PCs, according to the report.
"When we look at HP's consumer product lineup, we get very excited," Sheeran said. "We view that as a great potential opportunity for Rhapsody to flow into other devices."
The first step toward in that direction will probably be to develop a remote-control function that could be used with versions of Rhapsody running on HP's TV-connected Windows Media Center Edition PCs, Sheeran said.
RealNetworks is also expected to announce a separate distribution deal with the Cox Communications cable company, which will allow Rhapsody's monthly fee to be included on a customer's cable bill for the first time. Sheeran noted that the new deal could make retaining subscribers easier.