Windows Media Poised to Become Universal Format for Digital Audio

REDMOND, Wash., March 14, 2000 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that RealNetworks Inc. has licensed Microsoft® Windows Media TM Format audio technology, which offers industry-leading digital audio quality and integrated digital rights management. Real Networks joins the widespread industry support for Windows Media, which is opening the door for the first common, secure digital media format across every major portable digital music device, digital media player, jukebox and content provider. Microsoft also today announced that Media Metrix Inc., the pioneer and leader in Internet and digital media measurement worldwide, reported in its latest SoftUsage Report that Windows Media Player was used more than any other multimedia player among U.S. households with PCs in December 1999.* This unique combination of industry support and consumer adoption of Windows Media technology furthers the promise of access to digital media any time, any place and on any device.

Music fans have been among the earliest adopters of digital media. Until now, music labels have been hesitant to offer digital music from consumers’ favorite artists because of the absence of a common format that protects artists’ digital rights. In addition, labels and artists needed to encode music in multiple formats to reach the broadest possible audience. With Windows Media Format poised to become a universally adopted digital media format, music labels and artists will have an open, highest-common-denominator platform that offers unmatched consumer reach, the highest-quality audio, and digital rights protection.

“By licensing its audio, security and digital rights management technology to RealNetworks, Microsoft recognizes the music industry’s need to deliver its music in a single download format, reaching the broadest number of music fans without regard to the software player they use,”
said Paul Vidich, executive vice president, Warner Music Group.

“We are pleased to see Microsoft and RealNetworks take this step, which will create a better experience for consumers,”
said Al Smith, senior vice president, Sony Music Entertainment.
“This agreement makes it much easier for users to access digital music, which is extremely important to accelerate the digital delivery of music.”

The new support announced today adds to the rapid adoption of Windows Media technology among software developers, consumers, businesses and content providers. Windows Media is supported by leading digital media players, jukeboxes and portable music devices. Thousands of Web sites and Internet radio stations deliver content in Windows Media Format today, and corporations of all sizes employ Windows Media to more cost-effectively communicate with employees, partners and customers. Major music labels and recording artists also benefit from the open Windows Media platform, which offers unmatched access to consumers and digital rights protection – all while providing CD-quality playback of music in half the file size of other digital media formats.

“Windows Media is simplifying the delivery of digital media for content providers and enabling the delivery of better and more competitive products and services,”
said Will Poole, general manager of the Digital Media Division, Microsoft.
“Windows Media makes it easy for consumers to enjoy their favorite digital music and video in any application and on multiple devices.”

Benefits of Windows Media Format

Windows Media offers key benefits to the music industry and consumers:

  • Expansion of digital media beyond the PC. Windows Media makes it possible to take digital media to devices other than PCs, including cable set-top boxes, handheld devices and car stereos.

  • Broad choice of players. Windows Media Format works with leading digital media players and jukeboxes, including AOL Winamp, iCASTER from CMGI’s iCAST, Lycos Sonique, Midisoft Internet Media Player, MusicMatch Jukebox and Sonic Foundry Siren. Licensees of Windows Media technology, such as Liquid Audio Inc. and RealNetworks, can offer seamless playback of Windows Media Format content in their products.

  • Support from major portable music devices. Support for the Windows Media Format has been announced by top portable music device manufacturers, including Creative Labs Inc., I-Jam Multimedia LLC, RCA/THOMSON multimedia, S3/Diamond Multimedia Inc. and Sony as well as audio and specialized chip makers Atmel Corp., Cirrus Logic Inc., Portal Player Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. Windows Media Format is also supported on Palm-size PC devices from Casio Computer Co., Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., and the next-generation Pocket PC devices.

  • Best sound quality and compression. A recent consumer study by ZD Labs proves that digital music in the Windows Media Format sounds more like CD-quality audio in half the file size of MP3, offering two-hour music playback time on 64-megabyte handheld devices.

  • Built-in digital rights management. The Windows Media Format allows music publishers to control playback of digital music content by, for example, limiting the number of times content can be duplicated or the period in which it can be played.

  • Lower costs for content providers. A universally adopted Windows Media Format will eliminate the need for music publishers to encode in multiple formats, decreasing cost of delivery and ownership. Content providers will be able to deliver one format that plays in all players.

About Windows Media

Windows Media, the leading digital media platform, provides consumers, content providers, solution providers, software developers and corporations with unmatched audio and video quality. Windows Media technologies, which include Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and the Windows Media SDK, are available for download at . The Windows Media Player is the fastest-growing digital media player, and is available in 24 languages. To date, there are over 100 million licensed copies of the Windows Media Player, growing by more than one every second.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

*Analysis by Media Metrix includes all versions of Windows Media Player.

Microsoft and Windows Media are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corp. in the United States and/or other countries.

The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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