SanDisk, makers of the Sansa players, and RealNetworks, makers of the Rhapsody music store, are teaming up together to ensure their hardware and content work seamlessly together. Before now, the only player to work bundled with a single music store was the Apple iPod. It was this synergy, among various other things, that allows the iPod to become the de-facto champ of portable music players and online music stores.
By combining Sansa and Rhapsody, SanDisk and Real are trying to make sure their customers get a complete “experience” to rival the iPod/iTunes “experience”. This is a similar tactic that Microsoft is taking with its Zune players, making it not play protected music. At first we thought the Zune’s non-support for PlaysForSure was a typo, but they are most likely going to bundle their Zunes only with their Zune Marketplace music content, ensuring the 1-to-1 relationship that iPod and iTunes has.
In addition, Rhapsody has also partnered with Sonos, allowing them to provide an integrated music solution for the living room as well.
We’ll see if RealNetwork’s reversal of their old tactic of universal playability will have any effect on the iPod + iTunes tsunami.