The "Plays for sure" campaign will include a logo on devices that support Microsoft's Windows Media and will be advertised by download services that distribute files in that format, sources said. Although not specifically using the Windows Media brand name, the campaign is aimed at assuring consumers that all services and devices carrying the logo will be compatible with each other.
To qualify for the "Plays for sure" mark, a company will have to be certified that its products were compatible with other products using the logo. Some people familiar with the plan said it appeared to be aimed at highlighting the breadth of support for Windows Media, contrasting that with companies including Apple Computer and Sony, which tie their portable devices to specific music download services.
"They want to show that the Apple universe is a little one, and Microsoft is a big one," said one digital media executive familiar with the plans who asked not to be named.
A Microsoft representative declined to comment on the issue. However, a search of Network Solutions' Whois database shows that the company registered the "Playsforsure.com" domain name in June.
Microsoft is in the early stages of a broad consumer marketing push aimed in large part at capturing much of the consumer market that Apple controls with its iPod music player and iTunes music store.
The software giant has been touting new Windows-based portable devices called Personal Media Centers--due this fall--which will play music and videos as well as store pictures and data. Creative Labs, iRiver and others are expected to release their versions of the devices in time for the holiday shopping season.
Microsoft has also been building its own MSN-branded digital music store to compete with Apple's iTunes. Digital music executives say they expect it to be rolled out along with the release of the Windows Media 10 software next week.
The "Plays for sure" plan, which sources said was still being finalized, has been welcomed by some of the companies that produce Microsoft compatible products, even though it carries equal potential benefits for their rivals.
"I'm glad to see Microsoft is taking some steps forward to help be a mediator between the hardware and software guys," said one senior executive at a digital media hardware company. "I think it's a step forward."