RealNetworks Shares Hit Year-High on Sansa News

RealNetworks saw its shares on Thursday reach a 52-week high after it unveiled its new Sansa e200R digital music player—to be built by SanDisk—which will function exclusively with its Rhapsody subscription music download service, the Associated Press reports via BusinessWeek.com.

RealNetworks is attempting to cut the massive gap in market share between it and the U.S. market-leading iTunes Store, operated by Apple Computer, maker of the uber-popular iPod device.

RealNetworks’ stock was up by 4.1 percent, or roughly 45 cents, to $11.36 in Nasdaq afternoon trading, following the morning session in which the stock reached $11.50, according to the AP.

Over the past year, the firm’s stock has ranged from $5.63 to $11.20, the AP reports.

The new Sansa e200R MP3 players can hold between 2GB and 8GB of digital music, and they come preloaded with upwards of 30 hours of songs, according to the AP. RealNetworks plans to ship them in mid-October, the AP reports.

Sansa Rhapsody subscribers pay $14.99 for unrestricted access to the firm’s library of 2.5 million song selections, according to the AP. 

RealNetworks also yesterday announced in conjunction with Best Buy, the United States’ number-one retailer of electronics, a new Best Buy branded online music store to compete with Apple’s iTunes store that is to be powered by the Rhapsody service.

Best Buy will offer Sansa devices that are optimized for use with its service, and they’ll sell for between $139.99 and $249.99, the AP reports.

The announcement comes at a time when more and more firms are jumping into the digital music player and download space, to try their hands at cashing in on the success of Apple’s online store.  Microsoft, the world’s leading producer of software, is perhaps one of the most likely to succeed with its Zune music player and marketplace—as well as seemingly unlimited funding—which is set for a Nov. 14 U.S. release date. Apple sells its 30GB video iPod for $249.99, and Microsoft said it will offer Zune with the same storage capacity for the same price.

Apple also recently introduced upgraded versions of its full line of iPods, as well as movie downloads via its iTunes Store.

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