RealNetworks has seized the initiative to build bridges in the digital music format wars with its new Harmony technology to enable consumers to transfer secure digital music between devices – including iPods.

Announced today, the new technology lets music-lovers transfer music (while maintaining rights protection) to market-leading devices, including the iPod, and devices from Creative, iRiver, RCA, Rio, Samsung and PalmOne.

The move also means the RealPlayer Music Store now claims to support more secure portable devices than any other music store, though this has not yet been extended to help consumers share music acquired from different stores between devices.

The company describes Harmony as: "Aiming to free consumers from the limitations of being locked into a specific portable device when they buy digital music.

"Now consumers can build their library of downloads secure in the knowledge that it will play on virtually whatever device they choose," the company said.

RealNetworks founder and CEO Rob Glaser said: "Compatibility is key to bringing digital music to the masses. Before Harmony, consumers buying digital music got locked into a specific kind of portable player. Harmony changes all that.

"Thanks to Harmony, consumers don't have to worry about technology when buying music. Now anyone can buy music, move it to their favourite portable device, and it will just work, just like the way DVDs and CDs work," he added.

Two music companies - EMI and BMG - both voiced support for the new initiative. EMI Music senior vice president of digital development and distribution, Ted Cohen, described it as "making it easier for consumers to enjoy their digital music in a truly flexible way."

The technology will be demonstrated for the first time on Tuesday July 27 at the Jupiter PlugIn conference in New York City, when a beta test version of the Harmony-enabled RealPlayer 10.5 will be made available for download.