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Microsoft, McCartney join hands

The legendary rock star teams up with the software giant to offer fans unreleased songs, film clips and interviews on the MSN Music site, WindowsMedia.com and PaulMcCartney.com.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney is getting a little help from Microsoft.

The legendary rock star has teamed up with the software giant to offer fans unreleased songs, film clips and interviews from his Paul McCartney & Wings days. Beginning Tuesday, the clips will become available on Microsoft's MSN Music site, WindowsMedia.com and PaulMcCartney.com. The files will all be encoded in Microsoft's Windows Media format.

"We are excited to be able to share this new and classic footage with McCartney fans throughout the world via the Internet on WindowsMedia.com and MSN Music," Robin Bechtel, a new media executive at Capitol Records, said in a statement.

The promotion is another example of Microsoft's push to court content providers to persuade them to use its multimedia technology. The company has been engaged in a market-share war with rival software developer RealNetworks over the use of its audio and video playback technology.

One tactic Microsoft has used is offering its multimedia software and services to the creative community. The Redmond, Wash.-based company has launched exclusive promotions with pop star Janet Jackson and boy band 'Nsync as a way to draw Web audiences into using its software.

Through many of these promotions, the company has won friends within the recording industry, which could bode well as the online music landscape continues to shift. The record labels have started taking more control over the digital distribution of their copyrighted songs and have unveiled new initiatives that rely heavily on securing distribution.

Companies such as MusicNet, formed by RealNetworks and three major labels, are preparing to sell music subscription services. Despite RealNetworks' heavy influence in the venture, the record labels have nonetheless insisted that Microsoft's Windows Media technology remain an option when MusicNet sells its services to third-party Web sites. Pressplay, a similar venture, is reportedly in discussions with Microsoft to use its technology.

Meanwhile, MSN's neutrality among bitter recording foes could sit well with record companies. Unlike its primary online competitor AOL Time Warner, which owns Warner Music Group, Microsoft does not own a record label. Thus, labels concerned about dealing with their competitors could turn more readily to Microsoft to distribute their content.

Nevertheless, Microsoft remains dependent on striking deals with popular talent. Companies such as AOL Time Warner, despite the competitive edge with the other labels, can promote upcoming releases of its artists to AOL's member base of 29 million. AOL has offered its members exclusive chats with musicians such as Rod Stewart and exclusive pre-sale tickets to Madonna's upcoming tour. Stewart and Madonna are both Warner Music Group artists.

In this case, McCartney will present a new music video for the Wings song "Maybe I'm Amazed," which features unreleased home video of him and his wife, Linda McCartney. Other clips include McCartney's musings on life after the Beatles breakup and his years with Wings.