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Japanese CE firms launch Any Music

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If music devices are going to have to become intelligent in order to run a DRM protection scheme, then they might just as well run a communications stack and browser and communicate directly with music web sites. Why put music through a PC every time?

And that's just what Sony, Sharp, Kenwood, Pioneer, Onkyo, D&M Holdings, JVC and Yamaha think. This makes a lot of sense for companies that do not want to cede control over music to PC-oriented companies like Microsoft and Intel.

So in February all these companies got together to work out the technical issues involved and formed a company called Any Music. They plan to launch their services on 20 May and announced their plans this week. They have already formulated a set of common specifications for them all to manufacture to.

Any Music will partner with LabelGate, a music distribution company formed by the joint investment of Japan's leading record labels, which will provide system integration and content. An immediate music library of 38,000 songs will be available for the Any Music in Japan priced from ¥158 per single ($1.50) to ¥1050 ($10) per album. It will develop a portal site with customer management, authentication, billing and settlement systems targeted at home audio devices.

In addition to the music distribution service, Any Music has struck deals with FM broadcasters and CD retailers to offer more services to customers. Any Music customers will be able to access information on songs being played on FM stations and make online purchases of CDs and download music content. The first CD retailer to partner with Any Music for online purchases is HMV Japan. Any Music is also considering tie-ups that will allow the service to be accessed on car audio equipment and mobile devices.

Any Music compatible home audio equipment will have an Any Music button and dedicated screen. After users register at Any Music for a one-time charge of ¥315 ($3) and pay a monthly fee of ¥315 ($3), they can use a remote control to access Any Music services. These will include online purchases of songs, viewing music charts and artist information, view on-air playlists during radio broadcasts, online CD shopping from a menu and to transfer of music download contents to portable devices.

While it is not certain to work in the West, this looks like a remarkably concerted effort by the Japanese players to offer a strong alternative to piracy in their own markets, although this system specification has not mentioned any DRM architecture involved or given details of its billing process, both are implicit in what they've announced. It certainly sounds more convenient than going to Kazaa and waiting for an age for a track to download.

© Copyright 2004 Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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