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Microsoft cuts media licensing costs to control music, video formats

Cunning plan to carry Windows Media beyond the desktop
Tue Jan 07 2003, 10:31
MICROSOFT IS SET TO undercut rivals in a bid to make its Media technology the de facto standard and - some cynics might add - extend its monopoly from the desktop to encompass a range of digital media.

The company will introduce the final version of Windows Media 9 Series today and says it plans to license its Media formats to device makers at a lower cost and on better terms than those offered by competitors.

The software giant looks set to halve the cost of encoding and decoding to its own digital formats in some cases, in a bid to extend its reach to all manner of consumer devices, from digital music players to digital camcorders.

Microsoft Veep of its New Media Platform division, Will Poole claimed, as ever, that the new licensing arrangements were the company's "most flexible" to date. "The goal is to meet an industry opportunity to make this technology broadly available so that it will be even more ubiquitously used than today," he said.

And what happens when it is used "ubiquituously"? Ask, er, Netscape, for example.

Windows Media 9 Series is a cornerstone of Microsoft's future strategy to tie up the various formats of music and video under one umbrella - its own. The company's coffers are deep enough to allow it to undercut the cost of rival formats to consumer device manufacturers to persuade them to go the Microsoft route; offering short-term gain and masking possible long-term pain.

The company is expected to outline its Windows Media strategy more broadly at the Consumer Electronics Show that kicks off later this week in Las Vegas, when Bill Gates is to give a keynote speech at the show. µ


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