In July Microsoft will offer technology – code named “Janus” (this article will now self-destruct) – that will bring all-you-can-eat digital music service songs to portable players:
- Janus would add a hacker-resistant clock to portable music players for files encoded in Microsoft’s proprietary Windows Media Audio format. That in turn would help let subscription services such as Napster put rented tracks on portable devices–something that’s not currently allowed. Fans of portable players could then pay as little as $10 a month for ongoing access to hundreds of thousands of songs, instead of buying song downloads one at a time for about a dollar apiece.
Few online music subscription plans have enjoyed great success to date, but some music company executives said they believe Janus will make renting music more attractive to consumers and eventually give a la carte download services such as Apple Computer’s iTunes Music Store a run for their money.
Device makers, too, see the software as a way to take on Apple and its industry-leading iPod player, which for now offers no support for rented music. Anticipating the Janus release, MP3 player makers including Samsung have already begun advertising support for the technology in a handful of high-end products.
“To us, Janus finally provides the platform on which we can build a new type of experience for the consumer,” said Zack Zalon, president of Virgin Digital, the British conglomerate’s new online-music division. “We believe this is it. This is what consumers are going to want. We want to be big participant in changing consumers’ attitude towards what music really is.”
….Although Microsoft plans to get into the retail music market, its primary ambition is to be a technology provider and ultimately make its software the de facto industry standard for encoding and playing back digital media files–goals toward which the company could take a big step if subscription services based on Janus catch on.
….Part of the trouble with subscription services to date is that subscribers typically haven’t been able to transfer the millions of files available to them to their portable music players. Record labels have largely required that subscription content “time out,” or be made unplayable if a subscriber stops paying, and MP3 players haven’t had the capability to support that feature.
That’s where Janus comes in. The technology would add a “secure clock” to Microsoft’s Windows Digital Rights Management technology, which would let an MP3 player tell whether a particular file was past its expiration date. [CNET]
This is exactly the step that would inspire me to enter the digital download world, something I have avoided assiduously thus far. I would love to have access to hundreds of thousands of songs for $10 a month (or whatever), and then be able to take those songs with me away from the computer, which is not where I want to listen to music. This is getting very close to the “celestial jukebox”. “Owning” doesnt’ mean much if you always have access to something – of course you do have to stay connected to the service, but at $.33 per day, that is not unreasonable. This is also a good way to generate CD sales: people are going to buy the stuff they really like that they discover through the service.