Microsoft to Publicly Preview New DRM Technology

UPDATED: Code-name 'Janus' DRM technology will make its official debut when Microsoft releases its latest Windows Media Player 10 beta.

Microsoft Corp. is set to offer for download on Wednesday a "public preview" beta release of its Windows Media Player 10 technology. The biggest enhancement will be the new DRM (digital-rights-management) technology, code-named "Janus," that will be embedded inside.

Microsoft announced the Janus code name in early May. At that time, it also pre-announced some of the new partners, including AOL, Disney, Napster and CinemaNow, which committed to adopt the Janus technology. But Microsoft declined to offer any more information at that time.

At its Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) in May, however, executives with the Redmond, Wash., software vendor filled in more blanks.

Janus is the successor to the existing Windows Media Digital Rights Management technology. Unlike the current Windows Media DRM, Janus is designed to work across devices—as well as on the next-gen Windows Media Center systems due out later this year—and is custom-designed to support subscription music services (though it also supports other kinds of streaming audio/video content, as well). Janus includes a "secure clock" that is designed to time-out subscription content for which a customers license has expired.

However, a Microsoft spokesman noted late Wednesday that while the Janus infrastructure is part of the beta release of Windows Media Player 10, the DRM technology wont be usable, or even testable, until the final Version 10 release in the Fall, when Janus-enabled devices will be available.

Product Manager Marcus Matthias called Janus Microsofts DRM for devices. It is operating-system-independent (it will run inside a Linux set-top box, for example) and is compatible with the current 5-year-old Windows Media DRM technology. Microsoft is planning to offer Janus to device makers, chip makers, content providers and other licensees some time later this year, via a porting kit, Matthias said.

Janus encompasses four key components: a version for portable devices (i.e., any device designed to store and play back content, including set top boxes for video-on-demand content); a version for network devices (to extend audio/visual content playback to PCs); a Windows Media Rights manager software development kit; and a Windows Media Format software development kit (for media players that support the current Windows Media Rights management technology).

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments from the company.


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