Microsoft pushing into film

Wired has an article today that describes the various efforts that Microsoft has underway in order to continue their push to make Windows Media 9 the next format for digital media.

They cover a number of recent efforts by the company to push into the film industry, including a recent collaboration to add a Windows Media version of Terminator 2 in HD to the the second DVD in a new special edition of the film.

The allure of the format is its built in DRM and Microsoft's strict control over it. As opposed to open formats, which would allow you to purchase players, construction software, and utilities from any vendor, the Windows Media format requires that you work with Microsoft to make things happen.

Already, many of the major digital video production software companies that provide Windows versions (including Adobe and Avid) are shipping or have announced plans to ship creation software that works with the format under Windows.

Today, the Windows Media players are available on Windows operating systems, MacOS X, Solaris, and PocketPC. However, the Macintosh version doesn't support the new WMP 9 formats, and the Solaris version is stuck back at version 6 of the formats.

SDKs are, of course, available only on Microsoft systems and therefore content creation is locked to the Microsoft platforms. Further, there is no guarantee that Microsoft will ever move other platforms to WMP 9 much less provide future versions on other platforms.

Already, you see Apple's QuickTime and various MPEG-4 derivatives being used on most of the cellular phones with video technology, since Microsoft's players don't support Symbian or other PocketPC competing technologies.

In the end, it comes back to one thing: file formats. Digital Rights Management and their interaction with standardized file formats is going to be the key issue as we move forward in order to see if Microsoft becomes a true worldwide monopoly or just continues to be the largest player on the block. If they get their way, their lock on the file formats (through the use of their proprietary DRM mechanisms) will relegate every other platform to whatever area Microsoft feels is uninteresting enough for them to give up.

If we all push for standardized file formats and DRM, we will get solutions that will allow many operating systems, software packages, and companies to exist into the future. If we neglect this key fight, we are going to be in trouble.