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RioPort, Microsoft team to deliver secure music

RioPort plans to help Microsoft go where it wants to go: to the top of the hot Net music sector.

RioPort plans to help Microsoft go where it wants to go today: to the top of the hot Net music sector.

Microsoft and RioPort will announce today that they have teamed to bring the software giant's product for secure music delivery, Windows Media Device Manager, to the burgeoning market of online handheld and PC-TV devices.

The agreement is intended to broaden the incorporation of the Microsoft software into Net devices that play copyrighted music through RioPort.com, partners such as MTV Networks, or portable devices such as Diamond Multimedia's Rio 500, according to company executives. RioPort's Web site and software already allow users to buy, collect, play, and download audio tracks in various digital music formats, from MP3 to Windows Media Audio.

Microsoft appears to be gaining support for its digital music delivery technology. Just last week the company forged a partnership with MusicMatch--whose Jukebox software turns a PC into a component of a consumer's stereo system--to market and distribute Microsoft's standard.

The move may be welcomed by the music industry establishment, which has been backing different schemes to make sure only authorized copies of copyrighted music tracks are played via Net music devices.

"Our collaboration on the Windows Media Device Manager provides both our software and hardware partners with an integrated solution for delivering secure Windows Media content to consumers," Will Poole, general manager of marketing and business development at Microsoft, said in a statement to be released today.

Along with Diamond, hardware by Toshiba, Thomson, Samsung, LG Electronics, and Cirrus Logic will support Windows Media Device Manager, Microsoft said.

Microsoft's push for partners comes at a time when the online music scene is exploding, as evidenced by RioPort rival MP3.com's successful IPO. The market also includes firms such as EMusic.com and RealNetworks.

For RioPort, the deal extends its strategy of designing music delivery systems for third-party Net devices, a plan born of its recent spin-off from Diamond; graphics chipmaker S3 acquired Diamond this past summer. On the device side, Diamond's Rio competes with Creative Labs' Nomad and the Lyra by RCA, and it eventually will compete with Sony, which will introduce its digital music device early next year.

"In our effort to provide secure music to consumers, the problem we've had is making the music widespread to all these devices," said Anthony Schaller, executive vice president of technology for RioPort. "This is one of several initiatives we're pursuing to support multiple players."

RioPort's goal is to eliminate the confusion Net consumers may face when trying to play digital music, which can be formatted and secured under a variety of incompatible standards. For RioPort's partners, such as Universal Music, Nickelodeon, and VH1, wider support for Microsoft's standard simply gives consumers one more way to listen--and hopefully buy--digital music.

"To content providers it means that they don't want to be locked into one specific format, and if you look at the RioPort's Web site, there is a wide selection available in Windows Media Audio," said Lorraine Comstock, RioPort's director of corporate marketing.