Intertrust Acquires SyncTV from Pioneer

Intertrust, the DRM R&D and patent licensing concern, has purchased SyncTV from Pioneer Electronics.  SyncTV is a paid video content download application for PCs and Macs that uses the Marlin DRM created primarily by the consortium of Intertrust, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, and Sony. The site hasn’t been active in nearly a year.  Intertrust hopes to revitalize SyncTV and then find a buyer for it.

Marlin is the “media player” consumer electronics industry’s interoperable DRM.  It supports a wide variety of business models and allows content to play on any of a user’s Marlin-compliant devices.  Think of Marlin as the “media player guys'” answer to Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM/PlayReady, Apple’s FairPlay, or the handset vendors’ OMA DRM 2.0.  

SyncTV is essentially a showcase for Marlin, which is the sum and substance of its value to Intertrust, whose R&D efforts and intellectual property lie at the heart of Marlin.  The truth is that Marlin is in need of applications to help it get to market.  Sony was supposed to — by order of CEO Sir Howard Stringer, no less — be used in the past year’s new generation of the company’s video products, but it has only been used in Sony’s PlayStation gaming devices and the Sony Reader e-book device. 

The marketing program that Marlin announced a couple of months ago, meanwhile, has primarily attracted device and infrastructure companies as well as a few  system integrators, most of them based in Asia-Pacific.  

In other words, Marlin appears stalled — at least outside of Japan, where it has become an important component in the country’s IPTV infrastructure.

What Marlin really needs is a developer program; the Marlin Partner Program isn’t quite that.  I am now working with two companies that are potentially interested in adopting Marlin but need to know such basic things as what source code is available; platform and system requirements; SDKs and other tools; release dates; and so on.  Such information could be displayed on Marlin’s website and shouldn’t require prospective developers (including cash-strapped startups) to pay US $5,000 to see.

Marlin is flexible, sophisticated, and elegant technology.  But technology is not enough, nor is yet another paid video download site.  Marlin needs a killer app — or preferably several of them — to survive.

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