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a2b unveils latest digital music player, format

Sounds better than MP3, downloads faster. Got that, SDMI?

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AT&T digital audio subsidiary a2b today announced the latest version of its eponymous downloadable music format, which it claims takes 25 per cent less time to download than MP3 files and the previous release of a2b. But the real point of the system is not its technical capabilities, but its role in a2b's desire to get itself designated as format of choice by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). "The a2b music Player 2.0 represents a milestone on the road to making the secure digital delivery of music a day-to-day reality for all music fans," gushed company COO Larry Miller. And other people wheeled out to endorse the new release also stressed that they had "always been impressed by a2b music's regard for the protection of artists' copyrights". Hint, hint. a2b has been rather quiet throughout the last six months -- a period that has seen the music industry's backlash against MP3, the establishment of the SDMI and numerous attempts by digital music specialists, most notably a2b rival Liquid Audio, to promote their own offerings as exactly the kind of thing the SDMI should be supporting. The new release of a2b music Player 2.0 provides not only a higher, 15:1 level of compression, but supports RealNetworks' RealAudio G2 format for streamed audio and provides new licensing options, allowing music publishers to limit the time a downloaded track can be played before the listener has to cough up some money. A2b music is based on AT&T's proprietary version of the MPEG-AAC standard, which offers higher compression ratios and higher playback quality than MP3. Still, that's exactly what Microsoft is claiming for its new MS Audio 4.0 format, due to be unveiled later today, and that has probably played its part in today's launch too. ® See also RealNetworks buys Xing MP3 technology RealNetworks backs IBM digital music system

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