Microsoft Pushes Its Media
Technologies In Pacts With Intertainer, Liquid Audio
The Wall Street Journal
Microsoft Corp. reached separate agreements with Intertainer Inc.
and Liquid Audio Inc. to supply movies, music and other entertainment
for both personal computers and television set-top boxes that
use Microsoft's Windows media technologies.
The deals, to be announced today, are part of Microsoft's effort
to assure there is an ample supply of "content" specifically formatted
for Windows to help persuade consumers and network operators to
adopt Microsoft's technology as the underlying platform for delivering
and receiving digital audio and video.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., invested $56 million for an
approximately 20% equity stake in Intertainer, a closely held
start-up in Culver City, Calif., that also has investments from
Comcast Corp., Intel Corp., Sony Corp.'s Sony Corp. of America
unit and the NBC unit of General Electric Co. The deal gives Microsoft
access to Intertainer's "on demand" service that provides movies,
music, TV programs and shopping services to users with "broadband,"
or high-speed, connections. In return, Intertainer will adopt
Microsoft's Windows media technologies.
The deal allows Microsoft to showcase the availability of high-quality
content from many leading entertainment studios when pitching
its technologies to cable-TV operators and other providers of
highspeed services, such as telephone companies offering digital
subscriber line, or DSL, services. However, Intertainer and the
network operators must reach their own agreements before the service
is offered to consumers.
Financial terms of the deal with Liquid Audio, one of the leading
distributors of music on the Internet, weren't disclosed. Liquid
Audio, of Redwood City, Calif., agreed to encode its catalog of
more than 50,000 downloadable songs and one million music previews
using Microsoft's Windows media format, pending agreements with
individual record labels. Liquid Audio also agreed to add Windows
media technology to future releases of its Liquid Player, software
for playing digital music on the Internet.
The deal advances Microsoft's efforts to establish Windows media
technology alongside, or instead of, popular formats such as MP3.
Windows media technology offers record companies additional copyright-protection
features, known as "digital rights management," that aren't available
with MP3. Liquid Audio said it will operate a clearinghouse for
Windows media technology digital-rights-management services.
Gerry Kearby, chief executive officer of Liquid Audio, said his
company had received an increasing number of requests for the
Windows media format from customers and retailers and decided
to adopt it along with other formats. "We are the technology that
gets the music from the labels to the retailers in the formats
that they want," he said.
Separately, Microsoft said it will launch ClearLead, a new web
site to enable businesses to manage customer inquiries and sales
leads over the Internet. Microsoft's own CarPoint automotive site
will be the first customer for ClearLead, using the service in
its DealerPoint system for car dealers. The company said ClearLead
will enable auto dealers to respond to more customer inquiries
in less time and cut average per-car selling costs. The web site
will be available for general use in the spring, Microsoft said.