Microsoft last night joined the bunfight to provide a secure format for downloading audio from the Internet with the release of new audio software.
The software giant has released the beta for Windows Media Technologies 4.0, a major upgrade to its streaming software, developed to deliver content at a wide variety of frequencies, providing FM quality sound at speeds as low as 20kbps.
This also allows for high quality 'download and play' music with files half the size of equivalent quality MP3 files, claims Microsoft. Video quality is also greatly enhanced, improving to near broadcast quality over ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) and cable modem connections.
Windows Media Technologies 4.0 has already won support from Internet providers and independent record labels looking for a secure way of streaming music.
"Microsoft Windows Media Technologies 4.0 is the single most exciting development to come along for the advancement of streaming music in years," said Stephen Felisan, vice president of Technology and Development, House of Blues Digital.
"This technology will enable House of Blues to bring its high quality music experience to thousands of music lovers worldwide across the Internet at higher fidelity and lower bandwidth requirements than ever," he said.
Windows Media Technologies 4.0 beta also includes the Windows Media Rights Manager, a system that allows artists and publishers to broadly distribute their content while requiring a license for consumers to play the content. This will undoubtedly appeal to the record industry, which has sharply criticised the MP3 format because it is open to piracy.
Other features in Windows Media Technologies 4.0 include new wizards and templates to facilitate easy setup of ecommerce solutions; faster and easier encoding; Intelligent Streaming; and a software developers kit (SDK) for integrating Windows Media functionality into existing applications.
Separately, Microsoft today announced a complete, end to end digital rights management (DRM) solution from Reciprocal, specifically for the music industry. The solution is based on the Windows Media Rights Manager to enable content providers to package audio and video in a way that users can easily verify its authenticity and obtain licenses for use. This solution makes it easier for artists, publishers and distributors to bring their content into the digital marketplace on a scale and budget that meets their needs.
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