Music service provider, RealNetworks, will open its subscription-based Rhapsody streaming music service to users of the Macintosh and Linux operating systems. The company has expanded the service to these platforms by launching Rhapsody.com, a new Web site that company executives said will offer all users the core of the Rhapsody experience.

"This will expose the Rhapsody experience to users right on their Web browser," Karim Meghji, RealNetwork's vice president of Music Services, told MacCentral. "What this will do is give users on the Mac, Windows and certain distributions of Linux the essence of the Rhapsody experience."

Rhapsody.com will give any user that registers access to stream 25 on-demand songs every month at no cost. Rhapsody subscribers can stream an unlimited amount of music via the Web site. In addition to providing streaming music, Rhapsody.com will also give users access to streaming Internet radio.

Premium subscribers using Rhapsody Unlimited ($9.99 per month) and Rhapsody To Go ($14.99 per month) will also have access to their accounts via Rhapsody.com.

Currently the Web site does not allow Mac and Linux users to purchase and download music because it relies on the Windows Rhapsody client for that functionality. RealNetworks would not comment on when, or even if, a Mac client may be available.

"We are not talking about dates when we would deliver the full client," said Meghji. "As we take this step to deliver Rhapsody to more platforms, we will listen to what customers have to say and have that partially guide us to where we will go."

The first time you use Rhapsody.com, it will download a plug-in that allows the Web browser to play music via a pop-up music player. RealNetworks said that for Firefox and Safari, Rhapsody.com uses the Netscape plug-in architecture to play back songs.

Real currently has 1.3 million subscribers to it's Rhapsody music service -- that number continues to grow because of several key reasons, the company said.

"At the end of the day, it's reliability, quality of editorial and programming," said Meghji. "It's all of the added value that we feel makes Rhapsody such a great experience. Our goal is not to be the low price leader -- our goal is to provide a good experience."

RealNetworks has also launched the Rhapsody Web Services Initiative, a program designed to allow Web sites to integrate Rhapsody content. While more services are planned in 2006, Real said they will offer several ways to integrate Rhapsody beginning today, including: Tools for Web sites to create links, called "Rhaplinks," to individual music tracks as well as full playlists that can be integrated into Web sites and that enable immediate playback from Rhapsody.com; XML feeds, including RSS, of Rhapsody editorial information about music, which third party Web sites can integrate directly into their sites such as new releases, top ten tracks and top ten albums.

While the Rhapsody.com launch is only the first step in the company's strategy, Real is upbeat about how the launch will be accepted by Mac and Linux users.

"We believe the Mac and Linux communities will appreciate this step of being able to access Rhapsody -- and we are not going to stop there," said Meghji.