Microsoft is joining the battle to deliver a standard format for consumers to download music from the Internet, in what is likely to become a highly lucrative market.
Microsoft is set to show off its MS Audio 4.0 format at a glitzy party in an LA club in the US this evening, according to sources. The software giant will be guaranteed a star studded guest list.
MS Audio 4.0 will enable Internet users to download music files to play later. It will be a ?plug in? addition to its Windows Media Player.
Its big advantage over today?s popular MP3 compression format is that it is faster on downloads and provides better quality audio. The music industry will also like it because it is secure, guarding against software piracy.
Microsoft?s unveiling will come on the heels of IBM?s teaming with online multi media company Real Networks to create a standard for delivering music over the Internet.
IBM plans to integrate Real Networks client technology and encoding tools into IBM's Electronic Music Management System (EMMS), developed specifically for the preparation and distribution of all forms of digital content, including music.
The IBM EMMS is being piloted by the Secure Digital Music Initiative set up by the leading music companies BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music, in June in the US.
Despite the arrival of IBM and Microsoft, MP3 is still gathering support. AT&T has just launched the second version of its 2b music player which promises faster and better quality MP3 downloads.
Although Microsoft will have a lot of clout in the market because of its branding, there is yet a clear favourite in the race to come up with a digital format for downloading music.
Analysts believe the biggest battle will be to actually convince the record company heavyweights and their artists that their format is secure against copyright piracy in an industry that is worth $40 billion per year.
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