PlaysForWhatNow? Microsoft 'ReBrands' Misnamed DRM

from the confused-for-sure dept

Sometimes you wonder if Microsoft is just messing around with people for the hell of it. Remember Microsoft's fairly useless DRM offering called PlaysForSure? The one that was (like pretty much all DRM systems) easily hacked? The one that was used to convince a bunch of partners to sign up as Microsoft partners? The one that Microsoft itself then ditched itself when launching the Zune, abandoning all of the partners who could only laugh at the irony of Microsoft devices not playing content using Microsoft's own "PlaysForSure" system? Well, Microsoft has decided that perhaps it was time to change the name of PlaysForSure. Given how inaccurate the name is, perhaps that makes sense -- though, not nearly as much sense as just letting the damn thing die. However, even in changing the name it appears Microsoft has bungled the situation. The new name is "Certified for Windows Vista" which (oops) just so happens to be the same classification used for the Zune and its content... yet, as just noted, PlaysForSure content doesn't work on the Zune. Confusing enough for you? To recap: we've got DRM from Microsoft called PlaysForSure that surely doesn't play on Microsoft's own Zune player -- so Microsoft changes the name to "Certified for Windows Vista" using the same logo as found on the Zune, even though the content still won't play on the Zune. And the company thinks this isn't going to confuse and upset even more people?

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  • identicon
    Tony, 12 Dec 2007 @ 11:22pm


    I'm shocked . . . oh wait, not really!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    moe, 12 Dec 2007 @ 11:43pm

    Just more support for ditching DRM

    When MS announced that the Zune wouldn't use its own PlaysForSure DRM technology I recognized how ridiculous it was for the reasons you mentioned above: abandoning recent partners & incompatibility within the same company.

    Then, MLB pulled the plug (literally) on its own "lifetime" DRM technology for downloaded clips and told the customers to just shove off.

    Now we have two different, incompatible DRM schemes from MS using the same name. This is in the same market where you can buy songs from iTunes but can only play them on your computer or Apple hardware (IIRC, I don't use it).

    And let's not forget Amazon (and others) selling DRM-free mp3s while our State Dept spends resources urging Russia to shut down, which was a legal service so Russia had to change its laws.

    Finally, we've got imeem inking a deal to use songs royalty-free while scores of online radio stations may be facing the prospect of closing up shop because the royalty fees are based on an over-the-air market and are exorbitant when scaled to an internet-based broadcasting market.

    The EFF has some brilliant folks, so I'm sure they've been keeping tabs on these details. But just in case, there's a nice summary for you and them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    illegalprelude, 13 Dec 2007 @ 12:03am

    wow. that makes alot of sense....go Microsoft. But I dont see what the reason was for not allowing their own content to play on their own damn device. It just comes off as beyond idiotic.

    isnt this just yelling we dont believe in on our own products?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      moe, 13 Dec 2007 @ 12:19am


      The reason for all the MS nonsense is that the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

      PlaysForSure was set up prior to the release of the Zune, but just barely. The Windows Media software division made a bunch of deals with online stores and content providers (read: RIAA members) to ensure the MS DRM scheme would take hold.

      Then the Zune came out, and one of the ways the MS Hardware division could ensure its products got a foothold in the Apple-dominated market was to give people a reason to buy it. One way was WiFi and "beaming" songs amongst the Zune's. Well, in order to get content providers (read: RIAA members) to buy off on the (oh noes!) sharing of music files was to give them a chunk of money for every Zune sold.

      So, the software side sets up deals to make sure WMA stays relevant and the hardware side sets up deals to make sure the Zune is successful. Rather than meeting in the middle and getting the PlaysForSure DRM to work with the Zune features, they just made a new one.

      Of course, MS is still laughing all the way to the bank and slapping Apple on the back as they both wait for the next teller -- those damn RIAA members got to the bank first!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anon, 13 Dec 2007 @ 12:58am


    Another way M$ managed to screw things up...that's not shocking

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Miles, 13 Dec 2007 @ 5:26am


    This doesnt seem to make any sense ..... or is that why im not surprised. I think theres more to the story especially from the microsoft side since there has to be a logical reason. If there isnt a logical reason, which there could be, they are opening the doors to lawsuits and litigation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2007 @ 5:29am

    Nice way to scoop this story. Gosh it is probably the DRM story of 2006. Thanks for letting me hear it from you first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 13 Dec 2007 @ 5:34am

    High Definition Content on WindowsXP - Dead?

    Many years ago I upgraded my computer system and I ran across a Microsoft website advertising HD content along with a paltry selection. Then Microsoft introduced VISTA. With the introduction of VISTA, it appears that the ability/availability to play HD content on WindowsXP was purposely being left behind similar to PlaysForSure.

    Since HD content for WindowsXP never caught on; its disappearance, I guess, was not newsworthy. It is an unfortunate silence. I guess the content producers are purposely avoiding this market. Technically, we should be able to see HD content on our WindowsXP computers, but this issue just does not seem to have any "traction". Any thoughts?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Microscared, 13 Dec 2007 @ 5:43am


    I have been always beeen totally freaked out by anything called "PlaysForSure" from a company like Microsoft. You can bet the farm that it surely does not play for sure when you need it most.

    If Microsoft called it like all its other products, I may have trusted it more. Something simple and painfully obvious. "Windows," "Surface," .... "Stoppers"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 13 Dec 2007 @ 5:49am

    Re #8 Steve R

    There is a good reason that M$ doesn't want to enable playing of HD content on XP. That reason is Vista and what Vista does.
    Looking at the details of Vista, you can see that it is Incredibly hard to get Vista to play HD content in HD.
    In most cases, except for the very very few where you are using the precise hardware hook ups that Vista says you must use, it will purposely degrade the quality to non-HD.
    This is all in the name of DRM and anti-piracy.
    What the hell an operating system maker has to do to care about enabling DRM and stoping HD DVD piracy is beyond me.
    I assume they were paid off by hollywood, but thats just my assumption.
    But to view your legally bought HD content in HD, you absolutely must use specific connections that it deems are less hackable. Otherwise you not watching it in HD. Vista says so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nick Overstreet (profile), 13 Dec 2007 @ 7:06am

      Re: Re #8 Steve R

      hahaha, what?
      Hard to get Vista to play HD content?
      I had no problems at all. I double click the .avi file encoded in HD, and it plays.
      Now if you're wanting to play an HD-DVD or BluRay disc and output it to a TV, that is a different story, but if you have the correct hardware it is as simple as hooking up the cables and installing the software the usually comes with the drive. But, you said "HD content". An .avi file or any video file can be HD... it all depends on how it is encoded.
      You have to be careful with the terminology you use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Steve R. (profile), 13 Dec 2007 @ 11:08am

        Re: Re: Re #8 Steve R

        You miss the point. The prior version of windows, WindowsXP had the capability to play HD content. When M$ introduced VISTA they essentialyl "disabled" the ability of older computers to play HD content. This is similar to replacing PlaysForSure with the incompatible Zune Player. Disabling a consumers hardware (planned obsolescence) to "promote" sales is plain wrong.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Dec 2007 @ 6:43am

    what the hell is a zune?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 13 Dec 2007 @ 7:40am

    Re #12 Nick

    You are right.
    Perhaps my terminology could have used a little specifying.

    But with as much as M$ wants Vista to be a huge media center, you think they wouldn't have added in all of these quality degrading DRM stuffs.
    The average user is probably not going to understand why their standard component output from their graphics card that the guy at the store told them would output HD to TV isn't outputting HD.
    When they learn its because they need all these fancy cables and cards just because thats what M$ wants them to have so they can watch their legally purchased HD-DVD/Blu Ray discs on the TV from the PC, response will probably not be happy.
    Both at the guy at the store and the operating system, or maybe just at whichever comes first.
    I don't see how they can want Vista to be a media center to the public yet have such demands / restrictions. Its counter-intuitive.
    All because every person on this earth is now a pirate in M$'s eyes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dale Sundstrom, 14 Dec 2007 @ 11:20am

    Microsoft seems to like getting spanked by Apple

    Microsoft seems to like getting spanked by Apple. In digital music they keep positioning themselves to be a better target, and seem to be asking for it.

    Earlier this week, Microsoft ended its PlaysforSure certification program, used by nearly all successful services and music players other than Apple's. PlaysforSure has now been assimilated into the Vista certification program, causing some confusion, especially for users of Windows XP.

    I'm a happy subscription music user. Subscription services also use PlaysforSure, and are great if you like to explore lots of new music (otherwise, they're not). Microsoft hasn't been very successful promoting subscription music, and this is another bad move. Although I've spent hundreds of dollars happily renting music for years, I've never purchased music with DRM and don't ever plan to.

    Previously, Microsoft forked PlaysforSure into the incompatible Zune; it was a bad and disturbing move, but didn't affect me directly. Changing it to "Certified for Windows Vista" is so idiotic--it's hard to imagine much Windows media stuff, other than Zune, surviving. Unfortunately Zune is foolishly based on the only bad thing about the iPod; its closed ecosystem. I guess I should start looking for alternatives.

    Microsoft's Reality-Distortion Field apparently allows them to be convinced that Vista will soon be ubiquitous. They want to prepare for this, and encourage it, by giving Vista more visibility; Vista-branding all the Zunes and music they expect to sell, and forcing their music partners use Vista branding for certification ('till they're extinguished by Zune). It's crazy; and Microsoft doesn't appear to be coming up for air anytime soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Darkforeigner, 15 Dec 2007 @ 2:49pm


    Haha, thats pretty ironic. Microsoft's long used DRM system doesn't even work on their own player. They should have thought of that before designing the DRM

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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