Microsoft’s DRM Software Reaches Milestones

In a week where it inked iTV software deals and licensed music from Loudeye Technologies Inc., Microsoft Corp. continued its spate of positive press with the announcement Wednesday of two digital rights management (DRM) milestones.

Microsoft wants the world to know that Windows Media DRM technology has been used in more than 7.5 million music and video transactions, based on reporting from the companies that deliver such services, including DMDsecure, iBEAM Broadcasting Corp., Liquid Audio, On Demand Distribution (OD2), Reciprocal Inc., and RioPort Inc. Also, the software giant said its Digital Asset Server, the solution that secures eBooks, is currently running more than 20 eBookstores worldwide.

Windows Media became one of the first platforms to harness DRM technology for streamed audio and video in August 1999 and its success has led a number of content delivery firms to use it as well. Microsoft credits RioPort in developing the DRM services; the application service provider currently works with all the major and key independent labels to deliver music downloads, many of which utilize the Windows Media second-generation DRM technology. RioPort recently announced agreements to deliver thousands of top-tier commercial music downloads using Windows Media DRM to a number of online music destinations, including MTV.com, VH1.com, HOB.com and BestBuy.com, via its PulseOne Media Service.

While Microsoft can claim some sweet success relevant to its numbers, the transfer of secure digital music and video files has pretty much been along the lines of the quest for the Holy Grail, with a number of DRM solutions, such as “digital locks” and watermarks popping up in the past couple of years. While these concerns have no doubt been fostered by Napster and others of its ilk, no true solution is 100 percent cracker free.

As for its DRM solutions for eBooks, Microsoft established those in August 2000 with BarnesandNoble.com, which picked the Digital Asset Server as its preferred DRM solution and Microsoft Reader as its preferred eBook software. Other media and book providers have followed suit, including Amazon.com in the United States, Mondori.com in Italy, Groupo Planeta in Spain and Latin America, Vivendi Universal in France, Kinokuniya in Japan, and AdLibris in Sweden.

Microsoft noted that its DRM and eBooks solution have earned the attention of the top publishing concerns in the world, including Random House, Simon & Shuster, Harper-Collins, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Mondadori and Groupo Planeta among others. And while all of these publishing houses have combined to offer more than 10,000 eBooks in Microsoft Reader format, eBooks have actually been the primary focus of these old school publishing outfits. Last year, some feared what the eBook might do to its own hardcover and paperback sales when Microsoft and BarnesandNoble.com popularized it and so they agreed to play ball with the tech outfits so they wouldn’t be left in the cold.

While the company’s DRM milestones show that the software titan’s security measures for media are considered anything but poor, Microsoft’s most exciting news in recent weeks seems to be last week’s rollout of its Windows XP beta version, which has two key selling points to date: the inclusion of Internet telephony with better-quality voice capability and telephone directories, which may work as a subscription service; and Windows Messenger, which Keith C. Applegate of IDEAadvisor.com told On24 could help Windows XP gain market share because it will catch customers’ eyes.

Applegate said Microsoft’s potential killer selling point is the pooling of instant messaging, videoconferencing and a PC camera — applications that many companies provide separately, but not bundled together the way Microsoft purports to have done. Logic dictates that customers will go for XP because it brings the full range of Web-based communications together in one OS, Applegate said.

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