Microsoft sets sights on DRM market

Microsoft believes that secure computing depends on digital rights management (DRM) and the company expects to get a good grip on the market, whether it means securing digital media, documents or other content, an e-mail from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Ballmer reveals.

Ballmer's e-mail, which was sent to subscribers of a periodic executive update Wednesday, does not contain groundbreaking news on the company's DRM strategy, but does emphasize how Microsoft sees DRM as a crucial piece of its initiatives going ahead.

"Microsoft has invested more than US$250 million to date in rights management technologies, and we have substantial ongoing efforts to enable a new generation of rights management that will protect a broad range of personal and commercial digital content," Ballmer wrote.

DRM, or technologies that protect digital content and dictate how it can be shared or distributed, promises to be an increasingly lucrative market as more digital content becomes available and more content providers demand that their works be protected. In addition to content like music and movies that are ripe candidates for DRM technologies, Microsoft sees corporate content such as e-mail and internal documents as other realms where DRM technologies are due to take hold.

"Anyone who uses a personal computer for word processing, e-mail, data analysis or other common purposes is creating digital content -- content that if unprotected might be misused by others," Ballmer wrote.

Microsoft's flagship DRM technology is its Windows Media Digital Rights Management (DRM) tool which delivers music, media and other content online. The Windows Media DRM was first released in 1999 and Ballmer's e-mail details how the company has a line of new DRM products up its sleeve, including Microsoft Windows Rights Management Services, a security service for Windows Server 2003, due out later this year.

Ballmer said that Microsoft is partnering with a wide range of content providers and industry vendors to grab hold of the market, adding that DRM is a crucial part of the company's Trustworthy Computing strategy.

The same day that Ballmer sent the mail, Microsoft grappled with it's own security issues, issuing a patch for its Windows Media Player.

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