Bonum Certa Men Certa

Microsoft Wants Music DRM Renaissance

Broken CD
Defective, by design, by Microsoft



"We've had DRM in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an iPod is "stolen"."

--Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO



QUITE A FEW ARTICLES about this have been circulating, so it's probably worth bringing up the core of the news:

Microsoft yesterday unveiled its MSN Mobile Music service - and a surprise return to digital rights management (DRM).


As expected, there is some strong critique already:

While this is just a relatively small service offered only in the UK, it's the perfect example of why Microsoft can't get it right when it comes to competing with Apple's iTunes Music Store. The key to success is offering a consistent user experience, with one single store. It doesn't make sense to have each national Microsoft branch to start its own music service, with independent pricing and restrictive DRM schemes. Microsoft is laying off 5000 people, and looking for other means to cut costs?

I say, quit this pointless music store before it's even open, and because of this saving, maybe a few more folk can keep their jobs. I'd say, get your priorities straight.


Microsoft seems somewhat out of touch because, as pointed out here, music DRM is on its way to the grave.

Last week's agreement between Apple and the major record companies to eliminate DRM (copy protection) in iTunes songs marks the effective end of DRM for recorded music. The major online music stores are now all DRM-free, and CDs still lack DRM, so consumers who acquire music will now expect it without DRM. That's a sensible result, given the incompatibility and other problems caused by DRM, and it's a good sign that the record companies are ready to retreat from DRM and get on with the job of reinventing themselves for the digital world.

In the movie world, DRM for stored content may also be in trouble. On DVDs, the CSS DRM scheme has long been a dead letter, technologically speaking. The Blu-ray scheme is better, but if Blu-ray doesn't catch on, this doesn't matter.


Why is Microsoft so desperate to have DRM? Platform lock-in is likely to be among the causes. But that's another story which we'll revisit in the future. Comes vs Microsoft exhibits, for example, show that Bill Gates intended to also use "security as a lock-in."

"We've been very focused on producing a DRM system. [...] We think DRM is important"

--Robbie Bach, Microsoft President



"DRM is the future."

--Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO

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