NY Times: Real’s Glaser was close to having iPod before Apple, but let it slip through his fingers

“Stroll the corridors and the atriums on Apple Computer’s corporate campus these days and you will notice that something is missing. Gone are the posters and graphics accenting the company’s sleek personal computers. In their place, in the main lobby, is a striking, three-story-high billboard celebrating Steven P. Jobs’s brand-new billion-dollar consumer electronics business – the iPod digital MP3 music player,” John Markoff reports for The New York Times.

“In just two and a half years, Mr. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, has managed to take a well-designed hand-held gadget, add software connecting it to Macintoshes and Windows-based personal computers and convince the recording industry that he has found an elegant solution for ending its nightmare of digital piracy. In doing so, he has shifted the emphasis of Apple from what made it famous – hip, even lovable computers – to what he hopes will keep it relevant and profitable in the future: products for a digital way of life,” Markoff reports.

“Sony and Microsoft, are betting that Mr. Jobs is wrong when he says, ‘It’s about the music!’ This year, both companies plan to release more expensive, hand-held combination video and audio players that their executives hope will blow the iPod away,” Markoff reports. “So will Apple eventually be overwhelmed by its bigger, better-heeled competitors? Throughout the technology world, there seems to be a simple, uniform answer to that question: Never underestimate Steve Jobs.”

“Apple is acting less like a computer company and more like brand-brandishing, multinational companies such as Nike and Virgin. The iPod’s success is also the clearest indication that Mr. Jobs, if he is to successfully revamp Apple, will ultimately win not by taking on PC rivals directly, but by changing the rules of the game,” Markoff reports. “The Apple that is starting to emerge may be a harbinger. The company’s growth may no longer be defined by its PC market share, now a declining sliver of the PC industry, but instead by Mr. Jobs’s ability to create consumer markets.”

“Apple says it developed the iPod in just six months, faster than any major product in the company’s history. The hand-held device, which contains more computing power than an early Macintosh, was put together starting in 2001 by hardware designers led by Tony Fadell, a young engineer who had worked at the Apple spinoff General Magic, at Philips Electronics and briefly at RealNetworks, led by Rob Glaser, who has developed the Rhapsody music service,” Markoff reports.

“[Fadell] would eventually build a 35-member team of engineers from Apple and other companies. Using a version of a microprocessor that powers most cellphones, the group brought the iPod together rapidly by relying on software licensed from a small start-up, Pixo, a cellphone software company founded by Paul Mercer, another former Apple engineer,” Markoff reports. “RealNetworks had been trying to develop consumer electronics products based on the company’s RealPlayer software program. Mr. Fadell, however, lasted only six weeks at the company because, his friends said, he did not see eye to eye with Mr. Glaser, the chief executive. As a result, several former Apple employees suggested, Mr. Glaser might have allowed an iPod-like hit product to slip through his fingers.”

Full article here.

Related MacDailyNews articles:
Real’s CEO Glaser: Apple’s iPod/iTunes combo ‘threatens to turn off consumers’ – April 20, 2004
Jobs to Glaser: go pound sand – April 16, 2004
RealNetworks urges Apple to license Fairplay DRM; wants to form ‘tactical alliance’ in online music biz – April 15, 2004
RealNetworks caught between Microsoft rock and Apple hard place – April 08, 2004
Real CEO hopes for Apple iPod opening – March 31, 2004
Apple should not let any other online music services work with iPod – March 24, 2004
Real CEO Glaser begs Apple to make iPod play nice with other music services – March 24, 2004


  1. I assume that, at all times, from the looks of him, Glaser has a pile of Krispy Kremes in front of him that is so tall that nobody could ever hope to even see his eyes, much less discern whether or not you see eye to eye with him. Rob, just what are you carbo-loading so intently for, bankruptcy court?

  2. No, Real would never have had anything like the iPod, because a) Apple wasn’t involved and b) it was to be based on the real player format.

    He would’ve had a Dell DJ of sorts.

  3. Read that whole times article and No mention of OS X..Mentions Next..I like to think it is OS X that will deliver..Make anyone use it for a week and they will never look back..

  4. “Sony and Microsoft … plan to release more expensive, hand-held combination video and audio players that their executives hope will blow the iPod away,”

    Today, there are still far more portable AM/FM radios sold than portable TVs. Why? Just as Steve jobs has said from the very beginnings of iPod, that the listening of music is a passive activity. It is something you can do while jogging, making biscuits, or during a boring corporate meeting. Video requires the person to be actively watching it. And the only reason that playing DVDs on your iBook is marginally entertaining is that it has an awesome display, probably better than your TV.

    I fail to see why anyone would spend more money for features they will seldom really use, and when they do, it will be a 3″x3″ display. Granted, they may develop a cheap glasses-like viewer, but then it will require more of the viewer’s attention… and make you look like a bigger geek than you already are (that alone would cause its demise).

    Don’t they see that all they are doing is making a portable TV? These guys have absolutely NO imagination nor any concept of what the public needs. All they can do is copy someone else’s work and then add an ashtray, and call it unique and innovative.

  5. The other company that was close was the guys who make the Archos jukebox but the software was awful, I had one and I loaded all my CD’s, hit the shuffle and play button and it restarted … boom all music gone (and it wasn’t stored locally either). Loaded them again and tried to random play the whole library and it did it again. Talked with Tech Support and they admitted it couldn’t random more than a few songs, returned it and didn’t go back until the ipod. Just like the mac, its the software that makes the hardware great and Real sucks at software.

  6. I cannot comprehend if Glaser’s public comments are wretched self-recriminations or ludicrous attempts to justify his pathetic business acumen. Regardless, this man’s behavior seems radically separated from reality.

  7. Remember, Glaser came out of Microsoft, used to be a good buddy of Gates. So, like Microsoft and Bill, Glaser doesn’t have an ounce of creativity and wouldn’t know innovation if it bit him in the ass. His only problem is doesn’t have Microsoft’s money…he’s screwed.

  8. There is already a more expensive portable player that plays music and video, its called a laptop. People who have them still go out and buy iPods even though their laptop will do everything an iPod can.

  9. Real’s current attempts to prop up their failing music business may be particularly pathetic, but lets not forget that they are not a total washout as a company. They are absolutely one of the pioneers that brought streaming video to the internet. It was pretty much quicktime and real until Windows Media came along. So while Apple is looking phenomenally successful right now, and have always been my favorite company, don’t count real out of the game yet. They may yet figure it out and give Apple a run for its money.

  10. LMFAO.. I LOOOOOVE this glaser stories man.. keep em coming…

    I love love love.. to hear Robs bitter and pathetic complaints about Apple’s imminent failure lmfao

    What can you say? Real was a big deal in 1998.. they really were. But streaming was never really a solution for quality video.. and the real player was okay, albeit riddled with ads..

    Isn’t it inevitable that these guys who ‘claim’ to have it all together… claim to be doing the big beautiful ‘compatible with everything under the sun’ bit..

    but the experience speaks for itself.. I await another delightful competition btw apple and microsoft..

    Safari wasnt’ a fair comparaison.. because it was better… or something..

    And MovieMaker is kinda like iMovie.. etc .etc you get the point..


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