Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Bournemouth, UK
Microsoft Slashes Prices in Streaming Media Battle
Microsoft Corp yesterday responded to rival RealNetworks Inc's move to open-source some of its software with promises of lower license prices and a license that will allow developers to create software using Windows Media 9 Series on Linux.
The software giant, bent on ruling the digital media revolution, has potentially kicked off a royalty price war, as it and its rivals strive to be the de facto format for streaming media on the next wave of internet access devices.
The company said at the launch of the final version of WM9 that its licensing terms have been reduced to undercut competitive offerings from the MPEG-4 Licensing Authority and RealNetworks, which offers both open-source and commercial licenses.
Microsoft said its licenses cover the Windows Media Audio and Video codecs (the compression methods used in digital media), WM streaming protocols, and the Advanced Systems Format, a "container" for packaging streamed files.
Microsoft said licensees of Windows Media Video 9, for example, will be charged a per unit shipped fee of $0.10 per decoder, $0.20 per encoder, or $0.25 for both. The company said digital rights management software will be licensed with "similar" terms.
It was not immediately clear if it will cap fees at $1m per licensee per year, as RealNeworks and MPEG-4 have. But the firm did say it will not charge for usage, as MPEG-LA has offered as an option.
RealNetworks said in November that it will license its client streaming software for $0.10 per unit if support from RealAudio and RealVideo codecs are not included, or $0.25 per unit if support for those codecs is included.
MPEG-4 encoder/decoder makers will be charged at $0.25 per unit, or $0.50 if both encoder and decoder are used in the same unit, with the first 50,000 shipments being free. Service providers will be charged $0.25 per user or $0.000333 per minute streamed.
The 9 Series also allows WM codecs to be used independently of ASF, Microsoft said, which will allow developers to build WM players that work on non-Windows platforms such as Linux, a first for the company.
The player, encoder and SDK are available now. The streaming server, known as Windows Media Services 9 Series will be shipped in the forthcoming Windows .NET Server 2003. It also published its licensing terms online for the first time.
Last year, archrival RealNetworks said it would offer the source code for its player, encoder and server via open-source and commercial licenses, though it stopped short of opening up the source to its codecs.
The company hopes the infectious nature of the GPL-like open-source license will help it become the dominant streaming media technology provider on the internet. The emerging market for streaming to mobile devices and household appliances are key target areas.
Not sure what it all means but..