Microsoft: This Time We Promise!

Microsoft made several announcements this week: one promises Live Mesh, a service that would "connect and bring devices together . . . to work in concert"; the other admits that Microsoft promises are not to be trusted.

Live Mesh is a combination of "a platform and a service," says Microsoft observer Mary Jo Foley, designed to be a "software plus services platform" that will synchronize computers and other electronic devices (personal digital players (PDPs), phones, DVRs, game consoles, etc) with the vast Interwebs. At the moment, however, Microsoft has not announced precisely how Live Mesh will work, since it requires developers to actually build applications that will employ it. BetaNews.com has a bullet-point summary of what Microsoft has revealed about Live Mesh, but expect further revelations at the Web 2.0 conference later this week.

Most analysts anticipate some form of content provision to be incorporated into Live Mesh, such as movie rentals or subscription music services. Consumers might do well to be wary of such offers, given Microsoft's recent decision to pull the plug on its PlaysForSure DRM key.

PlaysForSure, in case you're one of the gazillions of consumers who managed not to pay it any attention, was Microsoft's attempt to standardize DRM so that PDPs and download services would all "play nice" together. The MSN online store sold downloads with all of the convenience of PlaysForSure built in.

On April 23, MSN customers received an email with the following: "As of August 31, 2008, we will no longer be able to support the retrieval of license keys for the songs you purchased from MSN Music or the authorization of additional computers. You will need to obtain a license key for each of your songs downloaded from MSN Music on any new computer, and you must do so before August 31, 2008. If you attempt to transfer your songs to additional computers after August 31, 2008, those songs will not successfully play."

Translation: "That music you thought you owned? Ha ha ha—sucker!" Over at Microsoft Watch, Joe Wilcox has a sentence by sentence translation of his letter from MSN.

In addition to being a lousy way to treat customers, MSN's move serves as an excellent example of how DRM harms legitimate consumers without affecting content thieves.

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