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Microsoft will today announce cheaper, more flexible terms for its Windows Media Player 9 Digital Rights Management software, according to a Reuters report, and allegedly, this will allow the development of Linux WMP 9 clients, among others. Provided Linux developers promise not to steal our stuff, VP for new media platforms Will Poole told Reuters (although we concede, not in quite those words).

Given The Beast's oft-stated views on the viral nature of the GPL, Poole's readiness to discuss Linux WMP 9 client software is not a little perplexing. GPL-toting communists get their paws on MS DRM technology, build it into their products, and the whole Microsoft DRM shooting match gets open-sourced? It's a treasurable thought, but regrettably, as Microsoft's eccentric interpretation of the GPL is about 90 per cent marketing spin and 0.5 per cent reality, this is not going to happen.

The precise wording of Microsoft's new flexible terms for non-Windows licensees may provide us with some harmless entertainment, as and when we can get our hands on it, but it is not going to open source anything. But Microsoft happily talking about Microsoft IP going onto Linux platforms does mean the company is tacitly conceding its execs have been talking tripe all along.

Whether or not anyone is going to take Microsoft up on its latest offer is another matter, but perhaps not quite as clear-cut as it might initially seem. No major Linux distribution would want or dare to play footsie with The Beast, but WMP DRM has been making some headway, and as far as online music sales are concerned DRM in some shape or form is currently just about the only game in town.

So if Microsoft ultimately wins a major share of the market, then using a Microsoft DRM client may be necessary in order to buy music. And the manufacturers of devices based on Linux, BSD or A N Other OS won't be likely to have any great religious objections to fitting it. Last year's model, Windows Everywhere, this year's, WMP DRM Everywhere? Today's move may look a little like a publicity stunt, but it isn't. ®

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