Microsoft Announces New PlayReady DRM

The digital entertainment world is abuzz with news about DRM—what with Steve Jobs arguing the music industry should consider dropping DRM entirely, and the movie business facing a growing problem with AACS cracks. So, naturally, software giant Microsoft has stepped boldly into the fray…with yet another DRM technology dubbed PlayReady, this time aiming to satisfy the needs of the growing mobile content industry and tap into the revenue streams represented by the growing over-the-air wireless media market.

“Our wireless partners worldwide asked for a single system to power a growing array of business models and consumer scenarios—the result is Microsoft PlayReady,” said Amir Majidimehr, Microsoft’s corporate VP of Consumer Media Technology, in a statement. “With consumer demand for digital goods of all types growing exponentially, this technology delivers a foundation for the future and accelerates the transparent delivery of rich content to consumers.”

Unlike existing DRM technologies, PlayReady is designed to support a range of content business models such as subscriptions, rentals, pay-per-view, preview, and “super-distribution,” letting consumers share media to other potential customers under specific usage terms (kind of like the Zune’s play-three-times sharing feature). Microsoft has designed PlayReady to apply to a wide range of audio and video formats, including AAC, Windows Media, and H.264 video; the technology is backward compatible with Windows DRM 10, so consumers’ existing Windows Media content will continue to be usable under PlayReady. And, since it’s Microsoft, big name mobile and wireless companies are leaping to embrace PlayReady, including Verizon, AT&T, )2, Telefónica, and Bouygues Telecom.

Microsoft plans to have PlayReady “ready to go” for handset and device makers in the first half of 2007, and will offer a porting kit with source code, while partner PacketVideo will offer optimized implementations for specific handsets.

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