Sources say that Microsoft will release MS Audio 4.0--a new file format
that compresses audio files to half the size of an average MP3 file while
improving sound quality--sometime in April.
The company also plans to distribute free encoders for the ASF (advanced
streaming format) audio.
"It's a high-priority over there with 'The Owner,'" says one source.
Sources say the format will have a security feature built in, but reports
are mixed as to MS Audio 4.0's e-commerce capability. Some believe the
format will launch with commerce functions built in; others say it's not
clear how far along Microsoft is with commercial applications.
According to another source in the music industry, Microsoft has been
approaching the major record labels over the last few weeks to discuss the
new format. Some labels have also been solicited for music content, which
Microsoft plans on including on a demo CD that contains 10 hours of music
in the MS Audio 4.0 format.
Initially, MS Audio 4.0 can only play on Windows Media Player, which
raises questions about Microsoft's strategic position. It will also play
on Windows CE devices (hand held PCs).
"They're not trying to squeeze out anybody," says yet another source.
"They don't fancy this as another Liquid Audio and they're not looking at
this as a means to extend their world domination. They're just providing
you with another alternative."
The launch of MS Audio 4.0, if true, also brings into clearer picture
Microsoft's recent investment in Reciprocal Inc. (formerly the Rights
Exchange, Inc.). According to a press release from Redmond, the equity
stake in the digital rights management company is "the first step in a
relationship in which the companies will work together to build the
emerging digital content distribution and commerce industry."
[---===tomwhore@ wsmf.org inetarena.com slack.net===---]
"During my service in the United States Congress, I took the
initiative in creating the Internet." Al G(wh)ore