I’d heard rumors that RealNetworks was developing its own portable music player, but it was probably cheaper and smarter to partner with device manufacturers like SanDisk instead.
Today, the company announced that SanDisk’s Sansa e200 series players will come with Real’s Rhapsody DNA software — and 32 hours of free music from major labels and independents — starting this fall.
As some readers said in response to my Zune column on Friday, all this competition in the MP3 player market is great. It gives buyers more choices, it may push prices down and it could force the market leader, Apple, to develop innovative new products.
But what I want to know is whether Microsoft will be forced to give the Sansa Rhapsody players free promotion on MSN Search, just as Microsoft introduces its Zune player.
Under an October 2005 settlement, Microsoft agreed to promote Rhapsody on its search site, and Rhapsody will probably play up the Sansa and other devices that use its software. The promotions were to last 18 months, so Rhapsody’s presence on MSN should be strong through the holiday retail season at least.