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DRM disagreements follow Microsoft launch

Microsoft has been criticised over its proprietary DRM solution ‘PlayReady’, launched Monday, for trying to eclipse the OMA’s open standard and risking market fragmentation.

PlayReady will allow users to share protected pieces of content between mobile phones, PCs and other devices. Microsoft insists its solution is “platform agnostic” – however critics have rounded on the software giant for introducing another proprietary system.

Eli Mahal, VP of marketing at Flash Networks told telecoms.com: “I am not in favour of big players like Microsoft introducing their own proprietary standards when the industry is working on open DRM like OMA 2.0. If Microsoft is not compatible with OMA 2.0 there is no benefit for the industry as it will create islands of users who cannot communicate with one another.”

Jonathan Arber, analyst at Ovum agreed with Mahal and asked whether or not PlayReady is intended to be a replacement for OMA. “Does this mean that vendors are going to turn away from the oft-delayed OMA,” Arber said, “or will it be interoperable?” Arber argued that the entry of a proprietary system that is not interoperable with open standards will, “fragment the market, leaving people stranded. and if it turns out they are not interoperable that will hurt OMA 2.0. We could see a situation where some operators use PlayReady, some use OMA DRM 2.0, and some offer SDC’s proprietary solution. This would be disastrous for service providers, content owners and for consumers.”

Microsoft’s James Alkove senior director, consumer media technology group, said: “We believe there is room in the market for an open solution and a commercial one.” Confirming that OMA 2.0 will not be fully interoperable with PlayReady, Alkove insisted that Microsoft developed the solution because, “the mobile operators have been asking for this”. He explained: “There were and are [in 2.0] parts of OMA that do not allow interoperability.” He added: “The market has spoken and said that OMA 2.0 does not satisfy its requirements.”

That sentiment was echoed by Cedric Nicholas of Bouygues Telecom who said that despite OMA’s potential, “being open may not be the best solution if it is expensive, complex and unavailable.” Asked if he was concerned that there could be a clash between OMA and PlayReady he said: “Yes, interoperability is of course a concern but at least this way we are providing a legal service that pays content providers and keeps our customers happy. DRM is evolving and this was never meant to be an exclusive arrangement with Microsoft.”

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