InterTrust is one of the oldest and most successful companies in the anti-piracy business, which isn't saying much in a market where almost no product has moved beyond an endless series of fitful trial projects.
With its latest product release, InterTrust is expanding its services beyond the computer, looking forward to a world where people will get digital music and movies more though wireless devices, home stereos or TV set-top boxes than through personal computers. The company has radically slimmed down its technology to work in devices with only tiny amounts of processing power and storage space.
"We're moving into the living room," said Talal Shamoon, senior vice president at InterTrust. "The PC is not an entertainment device. If the TV crashed as many times in a month as a PC does in a day, we'd throw it out the window."
Analysts say InterTrust is stepping ahead of much of its competition with its new focus. Microsoft, which wraps its anti-piracy protections directly into the Windows Media technology, has been the biggest name in the business for the past several months. The software giant has struck several deals with big record companies to use its media formats, in large part on the strength of its security technology.
InterTrust has sued Microsoft, contending that the larger software company has violated the smaller company's patent rights in several instances. Microsoft has not officially responded to the lawsuit.
But because almost no content has been released in "secure" formats yet, analysts say the field is wide open.
"Nobody's emerging at the front," said Alan Weintraub, a Gartner analyst. "There's nothing to emerge from yet."
Gartner analyst Alan Weintraub says DRM vendors will need all the revenue opportunities they can get if they are going to survive until the technology becomes mainstream.
AOL Time Warner will be offering its customers a subscription to the MusicNet service, for example. SBC Communications is discussing plans to offer music, gaming and video-on-demand over its DSL (digital subscriber line) service but has not announced any deals with content partners.
Analysts say it will be some time before network and even content companies are ready to commit to any copy-protection technologies. That means InterTrust and its rivals likely have a long, slow business season ahead of them before they can expect to see serious profits.