RealTime IT News

DRM Protocol Choices in Wireless

Microsoft and Intel each have technologies that work with Digital Rights Management (DRM) on home networks. Consumer networking leaders D-Link and Linksys, never ones to get along, have picked sides. At least for now.

Linksys— a division of Cisco —is going with Intel's DTCP-IP (Digital Transmission Content Protection over IP), a protocol backed also by Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic. Linksys said this week that the technology will be a key element of its new Linksys Wireless-G Media Link (model: WMLV54G) product, which will let people watch movies downloaded from sites like Movielink and Real Networks in their own living room. They only need to be connected from the Media Link to the Internet, via wired Ethernet or Wireless 802.11g.

The Linksys Media Link will also support HD video at 720p resolution. It comes with composite, component, and S-Video connections to a video monitor, and has two-channel stereo sound.

D-Link, on the other hand, has gone with Microsoft in its new D-Link MediaLounge Wireless Media Player with DVD and Flash Card Reader (DSM-320RD). The company is trumpeting the unit's use of Windows Connect Now, which is a new tech stemming from Windows XP Service Pack 2 that makes it easier to use a USB key to transfer network settings from node to node in the home.

However, the new MediaLounge also supports the relatively well-established Windows Media Connect, the Redmond company's way of making sure files using Windows Media DRM can play from your PC to your living room where the MediaLounge will be hooked up.

Windows Media Connect has been around for a few months, and already has the backing of other media adapter companies like Roku.

Jason Ziller, the Digital Home Ecosystem Manager at Intel, says DTCP-IP is similar to Windows Media Connect, but that Microsoft's solution is proprietary for Windows-based DRM. Intel is working with companies (including Microsoft, which has pledged future support for DTCP-IP) and groups like the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) to perfect DTCP-IP for home network content protection.

"DRM solutions, and there are multiples—Microsoft's, Real's, Sony's, Apple's, DivX, etcetera— they secure and protect content from the Internet to (primarily) the PC today," says Ziller. "We're working with all the DRM vendors to make sure they can convert the protection to a standard DTCP-IP stream on a home network."

Intel's protocol is pretty new (there's only one other product shipping in Japan using DTCP-IP), but this isn't the first media adapter for Linksys or D-Link, DRM or not.

Linksys has had a series of units that display still photos and play digital music over a home network, plus a wireless extender to be used with Windows Media Center PCs.

D-Link's new MediaLounge looks similar to the current model that plays video, music (files and Internet radio), and still digital photos. However, it is significant that it adds a progressive-scan DVD player at a time when other media adapters with DVDs, like the one Gateway used to sell, seem to be leaving the market. It also includes a 5-in-1 memory card reader (XD Card, SD, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, and CompactFlash) so you can view digital images that might come from a digital camera.

Ziller says that in the future, products not using DTCP-IP, like D-Link's MediaLounge, can probably be made to use the protocol through a firmware upgrade.

Pricing for both products is yet to be determined. Both are on display this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.