With an eye to capturing a larger share of the budding market for online music and movie distribution software, Microsoft Corp. announced Monday a new version of its copyright protection software that will allow users to play rented content on portable devices, such as mobile phones, and networked devices within the home.
The new version of Microsoft’s Windows Media software contains DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology, which is designed to protect, deliver and play subscription-based digital music and video content on a wide range portable devices, including those in homes connected via wireless networks, the company said in a statement.
The technology, essentially, gives content purchased through subscription services a digital expiration date, even when the data is transferred from a PC. It allows users, for instance, to rent a song or video, download the content onto a portable player and play it back until the rental expires.
Several content providers have already agreed to use the technology, including Time Warner Inc.’s American Online unit, The Walt Disney Co. and Roxio Inc.’s Napster LLC.
With its new content protection software, Microsoft hopes to counter the growing popularity of Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes online music shop, which distributes music using its own copyright protection format.
Apple uses Fairplay, which allows users to purchase songs from the iTunes Music Store and play them on five computers and burn a single playlist up to seven times.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said during a conference call last week celebrating iTunes Music Store’s first anniversary that Apple looked at subscription-based services, but they feel customers want to own their music and that’s what Apple would deliver.
The new Windows Media DRM technology will only work on devices specifically designed to support it. Porting kits offering ANSI C code and other tools for integrating DRM functionality into portable devices are available to chip and device manufacturers, according to Microsoft. Its Windows Media Rights Manager Software Development Kit offers support for adding DRM functionality to PCs, it said.
Jim Dalrymple contributed to this report