Microsoft And Janus



‘Plays for Sure’ was the name of the DRM system used by Microsoft to show people that it was safe to trust them as a music supplier. The idea was that Microsoft was so large that they would always be around, and the DRM intertwined with the music purchased would not ever prevent its playback.

The name of that technology inside Microsoft was Janus, and that now appears to have been a cruel joke played upon those who trusted Microsoft, as, after August 31 of this year, ‘Plays for Sure’ won’t. If the device has not been authorized by the Microsoft server by that time, the music will not be playing as intended, turning music into so much digital gibberish.

As of August 31 of this year, Microsoft’s “Plays for Sure” technology — once codename Janus — will no longer play for sure — unless, that is, users play back the tunes on the same computers and OS forever.

In a move that’s come under concerted attack by users ranging from anti-DRM music bloggers to Linux fans, Microsoft has disclosed plans to stop providing authorization keys for songs downloaded from the old MSN Music service.

In an e-mail Tuesday, Microsoft told customers of the former MSN Music — which was shut down and replaced by Zune Marketplace in 2006 — that as of August 31, 2008 support will stop for “the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased on MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers.”

Many users are expressing their displeasure, including someone who offered an online definition of Janus as a Roman god “depicted with two faces on opposite sides of his head.”

Although the music will continue to play on computers that have been authorized by that date, users will no longer be able to transfer tunes to any other machine, or even to play them on the same PC if they change operating systems, including upgrading from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

Janus seems to be the guiding persona at Microsoft these days, as just like Janus, the Roman two-faced god of beginning and ending, two faces and two minds seems to be the tone of each new day. One day, Microsoft, having said “Trust us, we won’t shaft you on DRM’ed music” decides to simply take its marbles (authorization servers) and leave the game, and another it decides that XP may or may not stay around – but no concrete position is affirmed. Perhaps this is good, as Pope Ballmer, currently touring Europe, can not seem to be pinned down on anything, wishing instead to ask us to worship at the altar of FUD.

Continuing his tour of Europe, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company may reconsider its decision to stop selling the XP operating system in June.

While the CEO stressed that most people purchasing new PCs today do so with Vista, customer demand has been high enough that sales of Windows XP may be extended past its original June cutoff date.

Vista has seen its share of lumps since being released to the public last year. The continuing popularity — or resistance to upgrade to Vista depending on how you look at it — has caused manufacturers like Dell to offer XP installs as an option.

In recent weeks, bloggers and petitions have begun to circle the Internet to keep Microsoft’s former flagship operating system alive. If Redmond decides to keep selling XP it would be a victory for these fans by any measure.

In another news blurb, the Smart watches that Microsoft has sold during the last 4 years, using the SPOT technology, are to be discontinued, proving again that Microsoft seems to be in the ‘hit and run’ technology business, acting like what used to be called a ‘fly-by-night’ enterprise.

Smart watches with the MSN Direct service have sold out, and the company has no intentions of producing new models. It says however, that it would continue to seek out new channels for the SPOT technology.

“We, along with our watch partners, do not have immediate plans to create a new version of the Smart Watch, as we are focused on other areas of our business,” MSN Direct chief Jon Canan said in a statement.

Canan added that feedback the company had received on the product would be incorporated into future devices, just not apparently in watch form.

Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) powers the data push which made the watches “smart.” Data was received through a inaudible data channel on select FM radio stations around the country.

However, Microsoft never seemed to be able to get sales to take off, and this may have been more of a function of somewhat limited coverage of the SPOT technology. Users generally needed to be within a major metropolitan area, and even there coverage was not consistent.

So…how many are willing to stand in line to kiss the ring? And having done that, how long will it help appease the ire of Janus?

[tags] Microsoft, Janus, DRM, SPOT technology, XP deadline, MSN Music [/tags]