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Linspire's Robertson embraces Windows Media

Do as I say, not as I do
Sun Nov 21 2004, 07:58
LINSPIRE INC. the company formerly known as Lindows announced on November 18 that it has licensed Windows Media technology and made it immediately available via a click-and-run online update to the users of the Linux distro.

The press release touting the company's Windows Media embrace gave some interesting details "Previously, Windows Media files would typically work on users' machines only if they found and installed unlicensed codecs online then patched them into their operating system. In contrast, Linspire licensed the codecs directly from Microsoft, then made substantial changes to make the Windows Media code work on Linux-based systems. The engineering required porting the complete Windows CE Windows Media code to Linux."

However, in the note, the company's CEO Michael Robertson lamented the Vole's unwillingness to licence its DRM technology to Linux, making Linspire unable to access DRM encoded content from sites like Napster, MusicMatch, and "Linspire is unable to play content that is encoded with Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.

Since most online commercial music stores implement DRM on all of their files, it is impossible for desktop Linux users to use these sites. Linspire requested a DRM license to complete their support of Windows Media, but was rebuffed by Microsoft, who said they will not license a general computing platform" the press release yawns.

This is a sharp contrast to the latest column emailed by Robertson to Linspire users, one day after the Windows Media licensing announcement. There, the Linspire CEO talks about the importance of open standards, the menace of a Windows Media monopoly, and the pleasing release of Real Player 10 for Linux, based on the open source Helix code.

"Microsoft has persistently tried to convince entertainment and technology companies to use Windows Media. Most have been extremely wary of using Microsoft technology for fear that Microsoft would monopolize the digital music and movie industries as they have done with the PC software business. These companies have feared that Microsoft would start with reasonable pricing, then raise the rates once they've secured a monopoly or even worse, not license to certain companies at all," he said.

He continues his warning on the Windows Media menace: "Microsoft has made steady progress getting music services to standardise around Windows Media by spending hundreds of millions of dollars and leveraging their operating system monopoly", he recognises, and concludes: "The ultimate solution is to embrace open standards - formats that aren't controlled by one company who can selectively price or license them".

So Mr. Robertson, supports open standards by signing up and paying Microsoft for Windows Media licence, thus validating and embracing the proprietary technology that he criticises. In fact, it could be argued that Linspire's move to support Windows Media sends the wrong signal to the media companies currently restricting their streams to Windows Media.

Surely some mistake. µ


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