This week the US National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are holding their annual convention and Microsoft was there touting their wares. The big Microsoft news was the announcement of some new reference content provider customers and the promise for later this year of DRM (AKA copy protection) for their Silverlight “Flash killer”:
Today Microsoft unveiled details of Silverlight DRM, Powered by PlayReady, the content protection support coming later this year in Silverlight. Silverlight DRM builds on Microsoft’s extensive expertise and experience in content protection and support for hundreds of millions of media players and devices worldwide.
In addition to being compatible with the broadly deployed base of Windows Media DRM 10 content, Silverlight DRM will support live streaming, on-demand streaming and progressive downloads for connected experiences. With the extensibility and openness of Silverlight, third-party solution providers will also be able to build and offer content owners additional choices for their media protection needs.
Microsoft apparently intends to continue their dominance in commercial media DRM software and connoisseurs of the genre will recognize PlayReady as Microsoft’s DRM successor to the the ill-fated PlaysForSure technology that Microsoft threw overboard (along with some unfortunate partners) when they released the Zune.
Today, Microsoft’s PlayReady digital rights management offering (announced last February) found its first non-Microsoft customer, Nokia, who plans to add support for it on their S60 and Series 40 mobile device platforms. Don’t hold your breath, though:
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.