The suggestion of a "tactical alliance" was made by Rob Glaser, founder and chief executive of RealNetworks, in an e-mail message to Apple Chairman Steven Jobs. Glaser left little doubt if such a union could not be forged, he might have to form a partnership with Microsoft, the New York Times said Thursday.
The overture by RealNetworks, a pioneer in software for distributing and playing music and video, reflects the scramble among major technology and media companies for advantage in the new, attractive market for music, and eventually movies, distributed legally over the Internet.
Apple is clearly the early leader with its iTunes online music store but Microsoft is gaining. A pact with Microsoft would be a major reversal for RealNetworks, whose complaints about business tactics helped form the European Commission's antitrust case against Microsoft.