Microsoft, Panasonic to work on DRM compatibility

Companies team up to make SD memory cards interoperate with Windows Media digital rights management

LAS VEGAS - Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) and Microsoft are working together to realize digital rights management (DRM) system interoperability between Windows Media and SD (Secure Digital) memory card, Panasonic said Wednesday at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

The goal is to enable consumers to securely transfer content downloaded from online music stores and protected using the Windows Media DRM system onto SD cards for playback in portable music players such as those produced by Panasonic. Panasonic developed the SD format with Toshiba Corp. and SanDisk Corp.

SD cards use a copy protection system called CPRM (Copy Protection for Recordable Media) and the work will involve taking the Windows Media DRM-protected content and modifying it so that it's stored as a CPRM-protected file, said Masayuki Kozuka, general manager of technology strategy at the network business group of Osaka-based Matsushita.

Panasonic and Microsoft have already started working together on interoperability and have disclosed parts of their DRM technologies to each other, he said. The work is expected to be completed in the second half of 2005.

The technology developed under the agreement can be used worldwide by both companies although initially the focus will be on the North American market, where online sales of Windows Media DRM-protected content is greatest. Online music services such as those run by Napster, MSN Music, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. use the system. Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store uses a different and incompatible system.