IBM has joined forces with online multi media company RealNetworks to create a standard for delivering music over the Internet.
IBM and RealNetworks will integrate RealNetworks 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.
Financial details on the agreement have not been disclosed.
The IBM EMMS is being used by the Secure Digital Music Initiative set up by the leading music companies BMG, EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music.
The Initiative plans to conduct the first-ever market trial of a system that combines security features with convenient and fast distribution of full-length, CD-quality albums to consumers. The pilot is scheduled to run in San Diego in June.
Microsoft is expected to join the online music battle this week with the latest version of its own music downloading format, MS Audio 4.0.
Meanwhile, MP3 is already carving itself a niche - despite being severely criticised by record company heavyweights who believe the format?s lack of security could threaten the profits of its massive $40 billion-a-year industry.
"The Internet has precipitated a revolution in the way people are accessing music for their personal use," Rob Glaser, chief executive officer of RealNetworks, said in a statement.
"We view this collaboration with IBM as a significant step forward in insuring that artists and content distributors have confidence that their songs are protected when delivered over IP-based networks?.
Industry watchers have supported the pairing. "For digital distribution of music to evolve into a mass market, it is critical that two key challenges be addressed. One is to protect the intellectual property rights of artists and music companies and the other is to provide consumers with a flexible and compelling music experience. This agreement does that," said Allen Weiner, Vice President of Services, Netratings.
RealNetworks is already seen as a leading force in enabling consumers to tap into video and audio online, with an estimated 55 million people using its RealPlayer software.
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