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Microsoft enhances license terms for Windows Media technology

Windows Media Player 9 Series new Auto Playlists.

In an attempt to extend the use of its Windows Media platform beyond traditional personal computers, Microsoft has announced that it will license its Audio and Video 9 Series media software to consumer electronics makers at lower prices and more favorable terms than its competitors.

Microsoft said it hopes the move will force more manufacturers to include Windows Media audio and video support in consumer devices such as music players, DVD players and camcorders.

Microsoft said unit pricing for Windows Media Video 9 (WMV 9) on devices and non-Windows platforms is 10 cents per decoder, 20 cents per encoder and 25 cents for both encoder/decoder. By comparison, MPEG-4 video is more expensive, with a unit price for decoder, encoder and encoder/decoder licensing of 25 and 50 cents, respectively. The company said there is also a significant content use fee for MPEG-4, while there are no content use fees for the Windows Media Audio and Video codecs.

Microsoft did not reveal competitive pricing with its chief rivals, which include RealNetwork’s RealMedia and Apple Computer’s Quicktime.

The new licensing scheme comes on the heels of a CES announcement that a final version of Windows Media 9 Series products has been released. The latest version offers high-definition video at up to six times the resolution of DVD, 5.1-channel surround sound streaming audio and faster enhanced video on the Web.

The new licensing terms cover Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series codecs and streaming protocols, along with a Windows Media file container (also known as the Advanced Systems Format, or ASF), which enables digital content to be both stored and delivered over a wide variety of networks.

In addition, software vendors that develop applications on non-Windows-based platforms now have the option of licensing the Windows Media codecs to build digital media encoding and playback support into their products. This will allow them to extend the reach of their Windows Media-based solutions and increase the interoperability of their products.

Microsoft said it also offers digital rights management (DRM) licensing on similar terms to the new Windows Media licensing program, either for use in conjunction with the Windows Media Format components or independently, for consumer electronic devices.

To download the Series 9 player for Windows OS (not available for Macintosh OS X) visit

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