Microsoft New DRM Covers Mobile Devices Too
By Eric Lin, Tue May 04 00:15:00 GMT 2004

Microsoft has released a new version of their Windows Media DRM that will enable the playback of protected media on mobile devices, or more accurately it enables the playback of "rented" material.

Microsoft's Digital Rights Management software already allows PC users to playback downloaded material for a limited amount of time. However files protected by this type of DRM cannot be transferred to or played on mobile devices. Janus, the new DRM scheme, allows mobile devices to play back rented or time expired material.

Janus could open up mobile devices to services like Rhapsody and Napster which let subscribers play an unlimited number of downloads or streamed tracks as long as they have a valid monthly subscription. Currently these services only work on the desktop, which is not helping mobile devices that play WMA files compete with the iPod. However the business model is also different.

iTunes user buy tracks; they are still limited as to what they can do with the tracks, however they can play them on multiple computers and iPods in perpetuity. This is friendly for compatible mobile devices, but currently that is limited to iPods. Apple has not licensed Fairplay (their DRM scheme) to any other mobile device manufacturer. Microsoft is hoping Windows Media licensees will adopt Janus so that any device with Windows Media Player could potentially be an "iPod killer."

The biggest hurdle for users of Janus will be that they will not truly own the tracks. They will be renting them from the download service. Microsoft's licensees are not alone introducing new rental subscriptions. Sony is introducing rentals in their latest line of devices. Their Librie digital book reader only works with files that expire after 60 days. Sony is also introducing music downloads that also have a limited lifespan. Neither Sony nor Microsoft are taking any steps to ease user concerns about diminishing rights of ownership yet.

Just as many societies are taking extreme measures against cameras built into mobile devices, it seems many media companies are pushing for extreme measures against mobile media devices. Mobile devices are seen as disruptive technologies by established industries as well as governments.