Microsoft plays online music card

A while ago, the frequency with which new players entered the online music service game was almost comical. There's nothing funny about the latest entry, though. Microsoft is finally ready to unveil its online music service. The service is based on Windows Media Player 10 and "Janus" DRM technology, but it's more than just music. Downloadable video is also in the cards, as is the option to rent rather than purchase content.

With $0.99 tracks and Portable Media Center players due out from Creative, Samsung, and iRiver, Microsoft poses the most credible threat to Apple's dominance of the online music scene. They've already fired a shot across Apple's bow by offering tracks encoded at 160kbps, albeit at a variable bit rate. Let's hope stiffer competition brings on higher quality downloads, lower prices, and fewer DRM restrictions.

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