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A "tactical alliance" that would serve as a united front against Microsoft has been proposed by Internet music and video service RealNetworks in an e-mail to Apple Computer, The New York Times reported. Apple is a leader in the online music market because of its iTunes service and hand-held iPod player, and both companies use the same technology standards. The Times, citing a copy of the e-mail, said RealNetworks chief Rob Glaser seeks a license from Apple that would allow RealNetworks customers to listen to their favorite music on iPod players. In return, RealNetworks would designate iPod the principal instrument for its software. Should the proposal be rejected, the newspaper said Glaser's e-mail suggests RealNetworks is prepared to pursue "very interesting opportunities" with Microsoft. The Times said spokesmen for the two companies were unavailable for comment.

EnCana Corp., one of North America's largest independent gas and oil producers, said it will buy Tom Brown Inc. of Denver for about $2.7 billion, including assumed debt. The US Rocky Mountains have been the highest growth region for EnCana, which is based in Calgary, Alberta. The acquisition, the second of its kind in a week, is expected to push EnCana's US natural-gas production to 1 billion cubic feet a day. Last week, Kerr-McGee Corp., a major gas and oil exploration company in Oklahoma, announced a $2.49 billion purchase of Denver's Westport Resources Corp., which owns extensive natural-gas reserves in the Rockies.

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Amazon.com, the online retail giant, released a test-mode subsidiary Wednesday intended to move the company more toward becoming a technology services provider. A9.com Inc. was introduced without fanfare to help Web surfers find information, including details about merchandise sold on Amazon. When A9.com officially launches its search enterprise later this year, it will compete with Google, Yahoo! Inc., and Microsoft, industry analysts said.


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