Network: Bytes

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The Independent Culture
REALNETWORKS IS shifting its focus today from being a software provider to a music portal, competing with RioPort, EMusic and MP3.com.

Last week, however, RealNetworks was forced into apologising to users of its Real Jukebox software, used by more than 12 million people, after it emerged that the program secretly collected information about their musical tastes. It also transmitted a serial number that could identify individuals.

RealNetworks said it did not store the information, which would be lucrative for marketing. "We made a mistake in not being clear enough to our users about what kinds of data were being generated and transmitted," Rob Glaser, the chief executive, said, offering "deep apologies". The company will post a patch on its website for RealJukebox users to block the tracking technology.

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RR DONNELLEY, a printer and publisher, has entered into an agreement with Microsoft to make electronic books available to users of its Reader software.

Microsoft Reader, demonstrated at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair, allows files formatted for print to be displayed on screen or printed on an ordinary printer with text that is clearer and sharper than usual. Donnelley will convert print titles into e-books conforming to the Open eBook specification, to read on stand-alone devices, PCs and laptops.

Donnelley will store and manage the digital texts and work with online retailers.

Over the last month, Microsoft has secured deals with publishers including Bertelsmann, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Time Warner. "This agreement helps ensure that consumers will have access to compelling eBook titles that will look great on any lap-top, PC, or device," said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's president.

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WINDOWS 2000 prices were released by Microsoft last week. The operating system that replaces Windows NT does not go on sale until February next year, but Microsoft said it aimed to help customers plan their budgets.

For those not buying a new machine with the operating system already installed, the full price will be $319. Upgrading from NT4 will cost $149, and from the consumer operating systems Windows 95 and 98 will cost $219; previously there has been no discounted upgrade from consumer to NT platforms. The server version has a complicated scale of fees; eg Windows 2000 Server will cost $1,199 for 10 users, and Advanced Server for 25 users will cost $3,999.

The server prices are about 11 per cent higher than current NT 4.0 levels, but Mike Nash, of Microsoft's business Windows division, said they still undercut the prices of rival systems from Novell and Sun Microsystems - by more than 50 per cent in some cases.

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FREESERVE HAS released a free CD allowing Apple computer users to sign up to its Internet service. Previously Mac users wanting to use Freeserve had to configure their TCP/IP software by hand. Now, like Windows users, they can download the software from www. freeserve.net or pick up an installation CD at one of Dixons, Currys, PC World, The Link and @Jakarta shops.

"The Macintosh market continues to grow," John Pluthero, Freeserve's chief executive, said. "In fact, nearly half of the iMacs sold are purchased by individuals new to computing. Freeserve is the perfect solution for iMac users."

By the end of September, a year after its launch, Freeserve had almost 1.5 million active registered accounts.

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