Apple Computer has come out swinging against RealNetworks' new Harmony technology, which makes tracks from the RealPlayer Music Store compatible with Apple's iPod players for the first time.

Apple Computer has come out swinging against RealNetworks' new Harmony technology, which makes tracks from the RealPlayer Music Store compatible with Apple's iPod players for the first time.

In a statement July 29, Apple said, "We are stunned that RealNetworks has adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker to break into the iPod, and we are investigating the implications of their actions under the (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and other laws. We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods."

Before the development of Harmony, music from the Real download store was not compatible with iPod due to the companies' competing digital rights management standards.

Real sells tracks in an AAC-based version of its RealAudio format; it secures the files with its own proprietary Helix DRM solution. Apple has yet to license its FairPlay DRM technology to any competitors -- a fact that has kept secure tracks from music services other than iTunes off the iPod. In April, Apple rebuffed overtures from Real to make the iPod compatible with the RealPlayer Music Store.

With the introduction of Harmony, Real claims that its files now work with devices from Apple, Creative, iRiver, RCA, Rio, Samsung and PalmOne, among others.

RealNetworks defends Harmony against Apple's claims, saying in a statement that the technology "follows in a well-established tradition of fully legal, independently developed paths to achieve compatibility."

The company says it "is delighted by initial consumer and music-industry support for Harmony. Compatibility, choice and quality are critically important to consumers, and Harmony provides all of these to users of the iPod and over 70 other music devices, including those from Creative, Rio, iRiver and others. RealPlayer Music Store provides the highest sound quality of any download music service. That's why so many consumers have welcomed news of Harmony. Consumers, and not Apple, should be the ones choosing what music goes on their iPod."