New Turbolinux Desktop Works with Windows Media Player

Thanks to a licensing deal with Microsoft, Japan-based Turbolinux has added compatibility with Windows Media Format to its next Linux distribution.

Tokyo-based Turbolinux Inc., a leading Linux distributor in Asia-Pacific with Chinese and Japanese versions of Linux, on Tuesday announced a new Linux desktop, Turbolinux 10 F.

What makes Turbolinux 10 F, the successor to its Turbolinux Desktop product, stand out from other Linux desktop offering such as those of Linspire (formerly Lindows) and Xandros Inc. is that this distribution is the first to ship a media player thats ready to run with Microsofts proprietary Windows Media Format (WMF).

The media player, Turbo Media Player, is built on the GPLed xine multimedia player. Users will be able to watch and listen to streaming media in WMF, RealVideo/Audio and MP3.

Turbolinux, formerly a major North American Linux distributor, has added this capability to its operating system, according to Michael Jennings, Turbolinuxs director of business development for North America, by licensing the Windows Media Format Component Source Development Agreement and the Windows Media Format Component Distribution License from Microsoft.

The development agreement enabled Turbolinux engineers to access the Windows Media Player source code and WMF codices. Using this, they created a binary plug-in to xine, which enables users to transparently play WMF media.

The distribution license enables the company to bundle the resulting Turbo Media Player with Turbolinux. But the company cannot ship its WMF-compatible player as a separate program that could work with other Linux distributions.

Turbolinux is also in the process of testing the program with Microsoft so that the Japanese company will be able to use the Windows Media Player logo. Jennings said he expects the testing to be completed in the next few weeks.

Jennings also said Turbolinux had wanted to include Microsofts Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, but Microsoft refused on the grounds that its about to release a new DRM program: a product based on DRM technology that Microsoft has code-named Janus.

Janus, which isnt expected out until the fall, will allow subscription-service users to play multiple copies of a media selection on both PCs and portable devices, but if the user lets his or her subscription lapse, the local copies will self-destruct.

When Janus becomes available, Jennings said, Turbolinux will try to license it as well.

Business users, not consumer demands, are driving the move, Jennings said. "Corporate customers in Japan use WMF internally for video streaming, and Japanese news Web sites use Windows Media a lot, so we had a lot of pressure from large companies for a Linux desktop that could handle WMF," he said.

"Were marketing it now for the consumer market, but business-customer demand is what really drove us to talking with Microsoft Japan." Its those same business customers, he added, who are driving demand for DRM.

In addition, Turbolinux 10 F will include CyberLinks PowerDVD for Linux. This commercial DVD player supports Content Scramble System (CSS), an encryption system widely used to protect popular Hollywood movies.

Turbolinux 10 F will be available May 28 for purchase in Japan. An English version, without Japanese-specific features such as Japanese TrueType fonts and the ATOK X system for entering Japanese characters, will be available June 30. It will be priced at $149 per copy for new customers. Customers upgrading from the previous version of Turbolinux Desktop can purchase 10 F for $64.

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