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Microsoft's "PlaysForSure" DRM knocks as much as 25 per cent off the battery life of a portable music jukebox, according to tests.

The CNET testers discovered that playback of encrypted files suffers compared to unencrypted MP3 files. That's not so surprising, and even Apple's own iPod turns in a shorter battery life when playing locked-down AAC files purchased through Apple's iTunes. But what may be surprising is just how much Windows Media 10 affects the experience.

Creative's Zen Vision M rated at close to 16 hours playing regular MP3s, but barely scraped over 12 hours playing Windows Media subscription files. Similar results were recorded for other "Plays For Shorter" devices: with the DRM knocking five hours off the life of iRiver's U10.

Manufacturers need all the help they can get from Apple's vertical dominance over the digital music player market - and this erodes one of the few competitive advantages that Apple's hardware rivals enjoy.

Apple, remember, has the ends sewn up: unique placement on its distribution channel (the Mac), superior synchronization, and seamless integration with its own store, which it is able to run as a loss leader to promote the iPod. Windows Media players are larger and clunkier, but at least they've been able to boast superior battery life. They still can, but not by as much, and not as much as they would like.

Nokia said recently it would have been able to launch its N91 hard drive-based music before in time for the Christmas season, if it hadn't been for interoperability with Microsoft DRM. ®

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