Microsoft launches 'PlayReady' DRM system

At 3GSM conference, company unveils system that allows sharing of protected content between mobile phones, PCs and other devices.

BARCELONA, Spain--Microsoft has launched a new digital rights management system that will allow the use of commercial content on multiple different devices for a single fee.

Microsoft PlayReady was unveiled at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday. It will allow people to share protected pieces of content between mobile phones, PCs and other devices.

Chadd Knowlton, general manager for content access and protection at Microsoft, explained that PlayReady is based on a system of virtual environments called "domains." People can register multiple devices within their domain. If a mobile operator, Internet service provider or broadcaster has registered with PlayReady, their customers can purchase content through the system and then transfer it to other domain-registered devices. Alternatively, a user could download the content multiple times to each device.

Knowlton said that people could register family phones within a domain, for example. However, it's not clear how many devices can be registered in a single domain.

"PlayReady is not integrated with Windows Mobile 6," the Microsoft operating system officially introduced Monday, Knowlton said. "It's platform-agnostic, and you can use it on whatever you want to put it on."

When asked whether this meant that PlayReady could be used on a Symbian phone, a main rival to Windows Mobile, Knowlton replied that it could be used on "whatever a user wanted."

Although digital rights management (DRM) is popular with content creators, it has attracted criticism. Sony was widely attacked after using a rootkit-like application to hide content protection on some music CDs, and earlier this month Apple CEO Steve Jobs called on the music industry to drop its use of DRM.

Knowlton cautioned that PlayReady was a "foundation technology," which might not be a mainstream feature for some time.

It has already attracted some industry support, with Verizon, Telefonica and O2 all signing up as partners.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from Barcelona.

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