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Apple may be on the verge of announcing it will licence its FairPlay DRM technology, it has been claimed, with the recently announced Netgear EVA8000 Digital Entertainer HD one of the first non-iPod devices to take advantage of the move.

So claims website Tech.co.uk, without saying how it's come to this conclusion.

Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, the EVA8000 has the ability to play songs downloaded from iTunes. Netgear said that to do so, the device has to be connected over the network to a Windows PC authorised to play the protected content. When Reg Hardware asked how this was achieved, Netgear wouldn't say, referring to its technique as "secret source". It did say, however, it's approach is not yet Mac-compatible.

That surely implies some kind of utility that's able to control iTunes on the PC to get it to authorise a DRM song's playback and them stream it. iTunes already has code on board to stream songs, even DRM'd ones, to Apple's AirPort Express unit and to other computers running iTunes.

Meanwhile, 'DVD Jon' Lech Johanssen's DoubleTwist Ventures is working on reverse engineering FairPlay to create technology that will allow non-Apple devices the ability to support the Apple system. Navio is working on a similar technology.

So is Netgear using such a technique itself - or has it licensed FairPlay? If it has got the DRM technology, surely the EVA8000 would interface directly with iTunes to obtain authorisation for song playback rather than piggybacking on top a copy of iTunes running separately on a PC? Indeed, Netgear's promotional material for the EVA8000 currently states the unit will only play unprotected AAC files.

Any liberalisation of FairPlay is to be welcomed, and Apple certainly has a strong enough to risk it, allowing third-party hi-fi makers to support its song store rather than opening it up to rival portable music player manufacturers. ®

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