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Linspire licenses Windows Media Player, but rebuffed on DRM
Nov. 18, 2004

Desktop Linux operating system provider Linspire says it has licensed Windows Media Player 8 and 9 codecs from Microsoft and ported them to its Linspire operating system. All of Linspire's desktop Linux versions now natively support Windows Media 8 and 9 audio and video -- an industry first, Linspire claims. However, Microsoft refused to license its DRM technology for use on a "general computing platform," Linspire says.

Previously, playing Windows Media files on Linux desktops typically required users to locate and install unlicensed codecs on their systems, according to Linspire.

Linspire is not the first company to license Microsoft Windows Media Technology for use on Linux, though it appears to be the first to release such support for Linux desktops. In April, 2003, InterVideo announced that it had been licensed by Microsoft to supply Windows Media Technology to makers of Linux-based consumer devices.

Linspire says it licensed the codecs directly from Microsoft, and ported "the complete Windows CE Windows Media code" to its Linspire OS -- an effort that required more than two months of engineering. (Microsoft recent began making its Windows Media and DRM technologies available for third-party licensing.)

Users of Linspire's new "licensed Windows Media codecs" can play a wide range of online Windows Media content, according to Linspire. Additionally, the new Windows Media support enables audio and video to be played directly within the current browser window, without spawning a new window, unlike many other means of playing Windows Media files on Linux, Linspire says.

Linspire did not say whether it plans to make its new Windows Media 8 and 9 support available to users of other distributions, or whether the license from Microsoft would permit it to do so.

The DRM catch

Due to Microsoft's refusal to license its DRM, Linspire's Windows Media implementation is unable to play content encoded with Microsoft's Digital Rights Management (DRM) software, Linspire says. Therefore, most content obtained from online commercial sources such as Napster, Musicmatch, and cannot be played, according to Lindows.

"It's disappointing that Linux users are barred from popular music services by Microsoft's unwillingness to license DRM to Linux companies," commented Linspire CEO Michael Robertson. "Microsoft is clearly trying to use their operating system monopoly to strong-arm control of the music industry and lock out competing Linux companies."

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