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.
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.
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:
Unbeknownst to many, Microsoft put the nails in its Portable Media Center coffin last year, telling licensees it would no longer develop the platform, opting instead to focus on Windows Mobile. The final word came in a public newsgroup posting Friday.
“With the re-investment of resources in media experiences on connected Windows Mobile powered devices, Portable Media Center 2.0 is the last version of our Portable Media Center software under the Windows Mobile brand. We do not plan any future Portable Media Center software upgrades or marketing activities,” wrote Microsoft’s David Bono.
Portable Media Centers first made an appearance in early 2003 under the name Media2Go. Although a number of devices and partners were shown off at the time, the platform was plagued with delays and the first PMC devices failed to hit the market until late 2004.
At which point their health was shaky because of the iPod surge. The final demise was sealed by Microsoft’s decision last year to cut out its Portable Media Center and PlaysForSure partners and build its own incompatible portable media player, the Zune.