The sad saga of Microsoft’s PlaysForSure Digital Rights Management brand for multimedia content has apparently come to a bizarre end as Microsoft’s PlaysForSure Web page (captured above) unexpectedly revealed that PlaysForSure is being subsumed by the “Certified for Windows Vista” logo. If you feel a certain amount of cognitive dissonance with the idea of media players and content (much of them already in use with Windows XP) being labeled with a Vista operating system logo, you’re not alone:
Those of you with players from SanDisk, Nokia, and Creative among others, looking for compatible music from Napster, Real Rhapsody, Yahoo Music, Wal-Mart and such must now look for the “Certified for Windows Vista” logo, not PlaysForSure. Of course, Microsoft’s Zune is also certified for Windows Vista, just not certified for Windows Vista so it won’t play back the same protected files. Man, could DRM get any more consumer unfriendly?
Microsoft’s portable media center partners knew the game was over long ago as did MSN Music users and what few subscribers there were for the Microsoft-MTV Urge music service so I guess we have to chalk this up as merely herding the remaining stragglers to the exit. It’s also a way to obscure the way that Microsoft left PlaysForSure partners and customers out in the cold when they went their own way with the Zune.
In December 2005 when MTV and Microsoft announced the URGE music service with great fanfare, it was slated to be a major feature of Windows Media Player 11. Before it got launched however, Microsoft introduced the Zune and the Zune Marketplace and somehow the MTV marketing blitz never materialized. Now the Wall Street Journal is reporting that MTV is switching horses and merging URGE into a joint venture with RealNetworks (who has its own incompatible Rhapsody service) and with Verizon Wireless handling the mobile distribution.
Today, Microsoft solidified their credentials as a Digital Rights Management provider for downloadable media with the announcement at 3GSM07 of Microsoft PlayReady for mobile devices which they claim is a “Breakthrough Technology Enabling Simple Access to Broad Set of Digital Content, Including Music, Games, Video, Ring Tones and Pictures”:
Today at 3GSM World Congress 2007, Microsoft Corp. announced Microsoft PlayReady™ technology, a new multimedia content access technology optimized to meet the needs of mobile operators and handset manufacturers for digital entertainment and commerce. Supporting multiple content types, and flexible rights, Microsoft PlayReady enables operators to provide a range of new services tailored toward growing consumer interest in mobile digital media. Leading mobile operators worldwide, including Telefónica, O2, Verizon Wireless, Bouygues Telecom, and Cingular Wireless, now the new AT&T, are today indicating plans to implement Microsoft PlayReady technology.
The result of extended dialogue with the mobile industry, Microsoft PlayReady technology enables a broad spectrum of business models such as subscription, rental, pay-per-view, preview and super-distribution, which can be applied to many digital content types and a wide range of audio and video formats. Content types supported include music, video, games, ring tones and images. Audio/video formats supported include Windows Media Audio (WMA), AAC/AAC+/HE-AAC, Windows Media Video (WMV), and H.264. Microsoft PlayReady enhancements make it easier for consumers to move their content between their devices, giving them a new level of freedom with their digital content. This technology will be available in the first half of 2007 for handset and device implementation.
Wireless delivery of content to handsets continues to grow rapidly, underscoring the need for compatibility and interoperability. To address this requirement, Microsoft PlayReady has been designed to be fully backward compatible with Windows Media DRM 10, allowing devices that support Microsoft PlayReady to access content using Windows Media DRM. Microsoft will also provide an interoperability program so content may flow to qualifying DRM and content protection technologies.
I guess Microsoft isn’t joining Steve Jobs’ “no DRM” bandwagon any time soon, but that’s no surprise and in fact, the “interoperability program” mentioned in the press release seems to play up to the European governments that have Jobs so vexed.
Also interesting, but still forthcoming, will be the details on whether PlayReady actually plays nicely with the old Microsoft PlaysForSure DRM specification (based on Windows Media DRM 10) which some current mobile phones support, not to mention the new and incompatible Zune DRM (aka “Microsoft’s future“) which presumably will be on the rumored Zune Phone.
Some Microsoft news items from this week that did not find a post of their own.
Microsoft’s Ben Fathi says Vista’s “no public codename” successor (until recently called Vienna) is coming in 2 to 2.5 years and will have some “fundamental piece of enabling technology” although Microsoft isn’t exactly sure what it is. There’s always WinFS! Update: Microsoft backpedals on 2/13 in a statement from Kevin Kutz, Director, Windows Client:
We are not giving official guidance to the public yet about the next version of Windows, other than we’re working on it.
If you’re collecting Vista compatibility glitches there were some doozies reported this week including Apple’s iTunes (and more), Nvidia graphics drivers, and MIT tech staff warning professors and administrators at the school “not to upgrade desktops or laptops to Microsoft’s new Windows Vista operating system because the software isn’t yet ready for ‘productive and safe computing,’” due to incompatibilities with their standard commercial and internal applications.
Aside from Nvidia who should have been better prepared for the launch, these are actually pretty much par for the course despite the adverse press. Commercial application owners like Apple have bigger fish to fry than tracking the exact ship schedule of a Microsoft operating system, but will generally catch up within 90 days of shipment. Internal institutional applications like those at MIT and elsewhere are unfortunately often treated as merely expense items and developers are forced to take a even more leisurely approach.
Microsoft Says They Like DRM in response to Steve Job’s open letter. Meanwhile, big four music publisher EMI appears to be testing the DRM free download waters.
Paddles, CLEAR! ……………THUMP! MSFTextrememakeover waxes indignant over the recent decline in Microsoft’s share price.
The European Commission has resisted efforts by Microsoft to make it abandon its report into open-source software, it was revealed this week. But the Commission was swayed into allowing a 10-day period for feedback before completing the report.
Previously mentioned here.
Microsoft Speaks Out on Russian Piracy Prosecution and frankly they need to work on their story. So far Microsoft had avoided the headlines like “RIAA sues grandma” but that can’t last forever.