Sony is getting Real. Real Networks, that is. On Monday, the two companies announced a digital music alliance that will combine their respective technologies.

Under the terms of the deal, Real Networks has built support for Sony's ATRAC3 (Adaptive Transform Acoustic Coding) audio compression system and OpenMG (Open Magic Gate) copy protection system into new versions of its Real Player software.

Version 8 of the software is available starting Monday on the company's Web site.

In return, Sony will install the software on its Vaio range of personal computers and bundle it with digital music players.

The deal goes a long way toward getting support for the ATRAC3 system into the mass marketplace.

ATRAC was originally developed by Sony for use in the MiniDisc system, which is very popular in Japan but failed to catch on in a big way overseas.

The system has been employed by Sony in several products since the MiniDisc launch and further refined to compress music better.

The latest version, ATRAC3, has double the compression of the original version and is the system used in Sony's portable digital music players, such as the VAIO Music Clip, in combination with OpenMG copy protection.

For Real Networks, the deal will mean both Sony PC users and users of the company's expanding range of digital music players will be offered the Real Player and Real Jukebox software.

Earlier this year Liquid Audio released a version of its digital audio player software that supported ATRAC3. The software allows users to automatically export music to Sony digital music players.