RealNetworks is set to announce a music download service based on iTunes technology, say sources.
The launch will take place at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas later this week, reports claim.
Sources told Silicon.com that the new store will be based on the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format used by Apple – but wrapped in RealNetworks' own Helix digital-rights management technology, which was announced a year ago at CES.
Apple's iPod will not be able to play Helix-wrapped songs unless Apple licenses that technology, notes Silicon.
Few device makers have announced plans to support the Helix rights-management technology, but the sources indicated that announcements from manufacturers are expected soon.
IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said: “The online music service-provider market is still early in its development. Real is certainly not taking itself out of the running.
"The issue with them will be working with MP3-player manufacturers, helping to make it cost-effective for those companies to support Helix.”