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Microsoft Windows Media Technologies Gains Support for Downloadable Music from Top Music Sites, Independent Labels, Popular Bands And Innovative Developers

Music Fans to Gain Greater Access to Internet Music for Authorized, Double-Fast Downloads; High-Quality Personal Jukebox Music Collections

LOS ANGELES - April 13, 1999 - At the House of Blues, Microsoft Corp. today announced that its new Windows® Media Technologies 4.0 has over 20 leading music sites and independent record labels, and 15 innovative software, hardware, service and solution providers singing praises of support. Top industry players outlined plans for using the latest upgrade to offer consumers unprecedented access to music and videos on the Internet, and personal jukebox software. The Casio E-100, based on the Microsoft® Windows CE operating system with Windows Media Technologies 4.0, was also announced as the first handheld PC with high-quality stereo playback. And the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Microsoft commented on reducing piracy and working on the Secure Digital Music Initiative.

Today's announcements demonstrate broad industry support for Microsoft Windows Media Technologies and show how these technologies will continue to revolutionize the way music is packaged, promoted, sold by the industry and enjoyed by consumers. The rapid growth in digital music distribution on the Internet has raised concerns about pass-around piracy as well as trade-offs between music quality and lengthy downloads over modems. The Windows Media Technologies 4.0 platform, combined with the wide array of products and services from industry partners, addresses the concerns of the music industry as well as the desires of consumers for fast-downloading, high-quality music. Windows Media and the many supporting solution vendors address these needs by offering digital rights-management and reporting features as well as superior audio quality with double-fast downloads.

The Windows Media Rights Manager enables flexible licensing for artists and publishers so they can collect money or information when distributing songs in the digital world. Music providers can tune fans in about concerts and new CD releases as well as keep track of revenues and royalties. And music enthusiasts will appreciate the industry's newest, most advanced audio compression, code-named "MSAudio," which will make possible double-fast downloads that consume half the storage space and deliver very-high-quality sound.

"Advances in Windows Media Technologies 4.0 make digital music distribution much more attractive and should open a floodgate of new music, exposing artists to more consumers than ever before," said Will Poole, senior director of marketing and business development for the Streaming Media Division at Microsoft. "The combination of great music sites, innovative record labels, advanced technology and new portable players is shaping a new era of connecting people with music, worldwide."

Music Sites and Independent Labels Embrace Fast Digital Downloads

Leading music discovery sites, e-commerce sites and leading independent record labels plan to start distributing full-length downloadable tracks "packaged" using Windows Media Rights Manager. The Rights Manager "packaging" process embeds licensing and other information with the content in a protected "package," making it piracy-resistant and supportive of new business and marketing models. And for the first time, users will be able to take advantage of advanced compression to download songs twice as fast as comparable-quality songs compressed with MP3 technology.

Top music sites and independent record labels will begin to offer full-length digital downloads to users during the beta period. Some sites will offer promotional tracks for free to their registered customers, and others will charge per download. Labels and sites offering tracks packaged for Windows Media Player include Amplified.com, Audible.com, Beatflow Records, DreamWorks Records, CDuctive.com, Del-Fi Records, Fuel 2000 Records, Launch.com, musicmaker.com, Platinum Entertainment, POINT Group Ltd., Raveworld.net, Restless Records, Rykodisc, Sightsound.com, Tunes.com, TVT Records and others.

Personal Jukeboxes and Music Players Give PC Users Creative License With Their Favorite Music

Despite the surge in availability of music on the Web, conventional music CDs won't be disappearing any day soon. MusicMatch and Sonic Foundry have each announced personal jukebox software that transfers songs from conventional music CDs onto users' Windows-based PC, where users can build a creative playground of their favorite music with fast access, play lists and more. Users can also mix and match songs from their CDs with downloaded music. The companies' use of the Windows Media Rights Manager will help ensure that content is stored on users' PCs with high-quality audio in a protected package to avoid accidental and pass-around piracy.

In addition to jukeboxes, consumer-friendly music players with play lists, custom "skins," and graphical equalizers have become popular for playing music on PCs. Two leading vendors, Nullsoft Inc. (maker of WinAmp) and Mediascience Inc. (maker of Sonique), have added support for Windows Media audio formats and are offering product updates to their users immediately.

 

Windows Media Enables Portable Players to Hold Twice the Music

Windows Media Technologies' new compression software promises to help leading manufacturers of portable players overcome one of their biggest obstacles: storing lots of high-quality music in a small space. Windows Media allows twice as much music to be stored on a portable device with comparable quality to music compressed with MP3. Casio Inc. today demonstrated its E-100 Palm-size PC, which plays music encoded with Windows Media. Other leading manufacturers are evaluating incorporating Windows Media Rights Manager and compression technologies into their next-generation devices.

"Casio sees high-quality music playback as a key selling point of its ground-breaking E-100 (http://www.casio.com/e100/) and E-105 Multi-media Palm-size PCs," said Gary Rado, president of Casio. "Using the new Windows Media compression software gives us an incredible advantage in terms of the amount and quality of music we can offer on our new devices, which are based on Windows CE. Casio is very pleased to be the first manufacturer to deliver Windows Media content to music fans on the go; shipments will start in May."

Leading Software and Service Vendors to Offer Extensions and Solutions

Great tools are critical to enabling content creators and providers to keep up with the hunger for new music on the Internet. Leading software, service and solution providers have announced plans to offer enhanced products and services that take advantage of the functionality in Windows Media Technologies to help make the production of downloadable music faster and piracy-resistant. The immediate availability of the Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Audio SDK enable developers to easily integrate "MSAudio" and Windows Media Rights Manager functionality into their existing sites and applications. Leading vendors that offer value-added products and solutions based on Windows Media Technologies 4.0 include Adaptec, AudioSoft, Beatnik Inc., Cakewalk, Interactive Objects Inc., InterTrust Technologies Corp., LiquidAudio Inc., MusicMatch Inc., Nullsoft Inc. (Winamp), Plextor Corp., Reciprocal, SoftLock.com Inc., Sonic Foundry and ThingWorld.com.

In addition to implementing its own Windows Media Rights Manager, Microsoft has created open interfaces to system components so that extended and more sophisticated rights-management solutions can be created with third-party technologies, such as the system offered by InterTrust.

"We're excited to be working with Microsoft to bring MetaTrust compatibility to the Windows Media Player," said Victor Shear, chairman and CEO of InterTrust. "InterTrust's sophisticated digital rights-management technologies, including support for offline transactions, value-chain management and complex licensing rules, will enable music publishers and distributors using Windows Media to pursue innovative business models and make use of content assets like never before."

Rights Manager Enables Digital Commerce and Addresses Piracy Concerns

Microsoft has met with various leaders in the music industry to learn their needs for security and rights-management technologies. The company has also made initial proposals to the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI), the technology forum organized by the worldwide recording industry.

"The RIAA is very concerned about the burgeoning piracy of music on the Internet, as it directly impacts the lifeblood of our artists, songwriters, musicians and the industry at large," said Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of RIAA. "We are working hard in the SDMI process to create an open specification that will reduce piracy, while at the same time enable new business opportunities for content providers and better experiences for online and other consumers of music. We welcome Microsoft's efforts to address these issues in Windows Media Technologies 4.0, and we look forward to reviewing its features in the course of the SDMI process."

"Microsoft and the computer industry recognize the piracy problems faced by the music industry and artists worldwide," Poole said. "We know how important it is to provide technological solutions while also educating consumers about piracy. We've designed Windows Media Technologies 4.0 as a first step in addressing these issues while at the same time offering consumers high-quality music. We look forward to working with SDMI to further define requirements for software systems that deliver the best content to music fans everywhere."

Availability of Software and Downloadable Tracks

With the Windows Media Technologies 4.0 release, Microsoft completes its transition from the "NetShow™" brand to the "Windows Media" brand. The Windows Media Technologies 4.0 beta, including the Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Audio SDK, is available now at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia.

A complete listing of high-quality downloadable tracks from popular artists can be found at http://webevents.msn.com/music/music.asp. Hundreds more are expected to be released during the beta period.

Comments From Leading Companies About Windows Media Technologies 4.0

Industry leading executives comment below on the importance of Microsoft Windows Media Technologies 4.0.

On Digital Downloads

"This is a revolutionary event for us at LAUNCH," says Dave Goldberg, CEO of LAUNCH Media. "We will be able to provide our members with the best digital downloading available, while also providing music that has never been heard before."

"The BigVideo section on RollingStone.com, announced last week and created using Microsoft's new Windows Media Technologies, turns high-bandwidth PCs into TV-quality video jukeboxes," said Howard A. Tullman, chairman and CEO of Tunes.com. "We are also making our complete archives of over 800 on-demand videos and our most popular downloadable music tracks available for the new Windows Media Player, giving consumers more options for experiencing music on the Tunes.com network of sites."

"With Microsoft involved, the game is obviously going to change," said Steve Devick, president and CEO of Platinum Entertainment. "Our diverse music catalog is already a proven online success. We see tremendous growth potential and new business opportunities with downloadable content that will define the future of music sales."

"The industry is overreacting to concerns about piracy and loss of control," said Steve Gottlieb, president of TVT Records. "Looking at the bigger picture, the Internet offers a completely new and unique way of sharing the experience of music as well as individual passions and enthusiasms. This movement will prove to be unstoppable because the ability to instantly share music with people with whom you don't share physical space is irresistible."

Portable Player and Hardware Manufacturers

"Diamond Multimedia's RioPort.com division is excited to be evaluating the new compression levels achieved in Windows Media," said David Watkins, president of RioPort.com. "Getting up to twice as much music on players like the Diamond Rio will be a big selling point with consumers. We're also very interested in systems that help reduce concerns about piracy, such as the Windows Media Rights Manger, as they will vastly increase the amount of downloadable music offered on the Web."

"Creative supports Microsoft's initiatives to advance the desktop entertainment experience for consumers with new audio technologies like 'MS Audio,'" said Hock Leow, vice president of the Multimedia Division at Creative. "With its new codec, Microsoft plans to deliver better compression for smaller files and increased sonic quality - these are significant improvements. Creative is evaluating this codec for use in its next-generation NOMAD portable audio players."

"We are pleased to participate with Microsoft in providing a complete solution for the protection of copyrighted music for the Internet music player market," said Nelson Chan, vice president of marketing at SanDisk Corp. "We are committed to support Microsoft's new Windows Media Rights Manager as an Internet hardware provider by working closely with Microsoft to integrate our unique serialization with Windows Media Technologies 4.0."

"As a long-standing Microsoft industry partner, Cirrus Logic is fully committed to supporting Microsoft's new audio compression standard," said Dr. Matt Perry, vice president and general manager of Cirrus Logic Inc.'s Embedded Processors Division. "We expect to be among the very first to deliver chip solutions that apply Windows Media Technologies 4.0 to deliver the highest-quality audio for streamed and local playback applications."

 

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