RealNetworks announced yesterday three pricing tiers for its Rhapsody online music service, including a free version that lets users listen...

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RealNetworks announced yesterday three pricing tiers for its Rhapsody online music service, including a free version that lets users listen to, but not download, 25 songs each month from the service’s library of 1 million tracks.

The company also debuted a service called Rhapsody To Go that, for $15 a month, offers the ability for users to transfer an unlimited number of songs to portable music players. The music stops working once the subscription ends. Only nine music players are currently compatible with the portable service.

RealNetworks still offers its $10 monthly Rhapsody service, but added the ability for users to download songs to their computer hard drive for as long as they remain paying customers.

The free service exposes Rhapsody to people who in the past have been put off by the idea of signing up for a subscription, said Richard Wolpert, chief strategy officer at RealNetworks. Once they try out Rhapsody, he said, they may be more inclined to pay the monthly fee. Wolpert said he didn’t think the portable player service, which competes with Napster To Go, would see much interest until perhaps the holiday season, largely because the number of compatible devices is limited and the technology on those devices is inconsistent.

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David Card of Jupiter Research said yesterday that RealNetworks is wise to play down its portability offering for now, particularly because it isn’t compatible with Apple Computer’s iPod device.

“The biggest hurdle of all is that the only device that matters ain’t going to support this anytime soon,” he said. “That throws a big honkin’ monkey wrench into the works.”

RealNetworks’ share price dropped 32 cents, nearly 5 percent, yesterday to close at $6.48.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com