1. Computing

Microsoft PlaysForSure Primer

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Microsoft PlaysForSure Logo
Updated October 20, 2004
Microsoft, at their Oct. 12 Digital Entertainment Anywhere launch event, made a big push for their latest Windows Media Player, version 10. One of the strongest announcements came in the form of their new PlaysForSure program, which is an attempt to help consumers like you and me sort out some of the more confusing options of the brave, new digital entertainment world.

What PlaysForSure Is:

What exactly is the PlaysForSure program? According to Microsoft’s PlaysForSure website on the subject (see column on the right for a link), it is a move by the giant software company to get various portable entertainment device makers and online services to simplify compatibility. This essentially means that when you download a music or video file which comes from a service affiliated with this program, the file should be playable on a similarly affiliated device like a MP3 player, portable video player, car stereo or other media device (this assumes of course you are putting the file to the right kind of device – a video file is not likely compatible with most MP3 players).

As described in a press release by Microsoft, a wide array of companies are supporting this new program: “PlaysForSure is supported broadly by leading consumer device manufacturers including Audiovox Corp., Creative, D-Link Systems Inc., Dell Inc., HP, iRiver, Rio, Roku, Samsung Electronics and RCA-brand players from Thomson; by online music and video stores including CinemaNow, F.Y.E. For Your Entertainment, MSN Music, Musicmatch, MusicNow, Napster LLC and Wal-Mart Music Downloads; and by retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Tower Records and Wal-Mart.”

Microsoft has developed a PlaysForSure logo (pictured at right) which will be found on all devices and online services which they deem worthy. What are the biggest criteria for this? Support of the Windows Media Format (WMV, WMA and WAV files) and compatibility with Windows Media Player 10 and Digital Rights Management.

When looking for a PlaysForSure device, Microsoft has created variations of the logo to give consumers a quick glance idea of what is supported. Audio options include download and subscription, while video is listed as download, rental and subscription.

In a specific example, say you are browsing Best Buy and you want a digital audio player which will work with online download services. You pick up a box for the Rio Carbon and notice a PlaysForSure logo which indicates Audio: Download. You now know for sure this device will allow you to visit a service like MusicMatch or Napster and pay for / download WMA files that you can immediately take on the go with no need for conversion or fuss.

PlaysForSure’s Success or Failure:

Will the PlaysForSure program work for Microsoft to bring ease of mind to consumers facing a ton of portable entertainment choices? Maybe. Windows Media Player 10, by most standards, is one of the best media software programs out there at the moment. Will manufacturers who have gotten in line with Microsoft stop packing their own music programs and just provide Media Player 10 on installation CDs? That’s a big question and one I assume Microsoft has addressed already.

Another thing to ponder: will this attempt by Microsoft to get all of these companies in line help to knock digital audio player kingpin Apple and its widely popular iPod out? Not likely in the immediate future. The iPod, with its wide appeal across different walks of people, has started becoming synonymous with the term “MP3 player”. That’s a hard thing to beat.

For consumers, the PlaysForSure program is a sure fire winner. For Microsoft, it may be as well if they can get the masses to buy in.

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