PlayReady on Android and iOS Shines at NAB

Three vendors of DRM technology made announcements timed to this week’s huge NAB conference in Las Vegas: AuthenTec, BuyDRM, and Discretix.  The common theme among these announcements was support for Microsoft’ PlayReady DRM on the Android and Apple iOS platforms.

AuthenTec, a company based in Florida whose main business is fingerprint readers (as in human fingerprints, not digital ones), acquired DRM assets from SafeNet a year ago.  These assets included a multi-DRM framework called DRM Fusion and OMA DRM software — acquired respectively from DMDSecure of the Netherlands in 2005 and Beep Science of Norway in 2008.

Usually this many acquisitions in so short a time implies deals that are euphemistically called “asset sales” and an acquiring company that lets the technology wither and die.   I had serious doubts that AuthenTec was going to do anything with the SafeNet DRM product lines other than support existing customers, but this announcement dispels that doubt.  DRM Fusion enables service providers to distribute content packaged in several different DRM formats; it originally supported Windows Media DRM (Microsoft’s older technology), then added OMA DRM support.  Now it has added support for PlayReady in a downloadable application for Android and Apple iOS clients called DRM Fusion Agent.

BuyDRM of Austin, TX, is a longtime Microsoft partner that has built its DRM service infrastructure, KeyOS, around Windows Media DRM. It announced KeyOS: Cloud Edition, a version of KeyOS that uses Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud-based service platform. Along with the support for Windows Azure, BuyDRM will be offering PlayReady for Android and iOS.  BuyDRM has HBO Eastern Europe as a launch customer, and general release is planned for June.

Discretix of Israel has also been known for multi-DRM support, focusing on mobile clients.  It too had been supporting Windows Media DRM and OMA DRM implementations.  But its new product, SecurePlayer, focuses exclusively on PlayReady for Android and iOS.  SecurePlayer is a downloadable application that combines a port of PlayReady to the target device along with a video player that is tightly coupled to the DRM.  This is more secure than a DRM implementation that merely relies on a device’s native video player, where content can be exposed in the clear.

All of these DRMs focus on delivery of video to “app phones” and tablets, whether through download or streaming.  This ties in with the more general trend of providing a given set of video content on any device — via a service like Hulu, the cable industry’s TV Everywhere initiative, or other channels.  Services like these need cross-platform DRM support in order to comply with studio and network licensing requirements.  Meanwhile, Microsoft is doing little by itself — other than making an SDK available — to help enable porting of its DRM onto non-Microsoft platforms.  Thus the opportunity for these third-party vendors.

Another trend that these announcements indicate is further indication of OMA DRM 2.x’s fade into irrelevance.  The number of services using this DRM has been small enough as it is.  In the music market, its demise was hastened last year with the news that Vodafone was phasing out its OMA DRM 2.1-based mobile music subscription service in favor of paid MP3 downloads.  The number of vendors offering OMA DRM implementations has dwindled.

Of course, other cross-platform DRMs for portable video-capable devices are available, such as Marlin (Intertrust) and NDS VideoGuard.  (The fate of Widevine’s DRM technology after its acquisition by Google late last year is uncertain.)  But PlayReady is the hot technology of the moment.

Now, on a completely different subject:

Personal Appeal for Aid to Japan

I have heard people say that the crisis unfolding in Japan is horrible but they aren’t sure how to help.  Many organizations are collecting money, but it’s hard to know how it will be used or where it will go.  Now here’s a more targeted and personal way to help:

My brother-in-law has lived in Japan for several years.  He lives in Tokyo now, but he started out teaching English in a village called Kawauchi, which is within the evacuation zone in Fukushima Prefecture near the stricken Daiichi nuclear plant.  He has deep personal relationships with people in the village and is organizing aid for its few thousand residents, who are currently in a facility analogous to the New Orleans Superdome after Hurricane Katrina here in the U.S.  He says:

Please send:

Toys and activities for children, school supplies, paper products including tampons, diapers for children and adults, personal wipes, tissues, toothpaste and toothbrushes (including for dentures) make-up, shampoo, games, new clothes, music, books and magazines (in Japanese only).

Sending along special foods and snacks will definitely be appreciated. Rations at the evacuation center are not particularly pleasant!

Aside from the basics, please feel free to send anything you think might cheer the villagers up. It is unlikely that any of them will be able to see their homes for many years, if ever.

Please note that people of Kawauchi Village cannot read English past a first grade level. Many of the evacuees are elderly, too.

Pass this note on and feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions. Thank you!  – Barry Lustig,

Here is the address:

Yoshinobu Ishii from Kawauchi Village

South 2-52, Koriyama City
Fukushima Prefecture
963-0115 JAPAN

telephone: (+82) 09022773557

〒963-0115 福島県郡山市南二丁目52番地

川内村教育長石井芳信 様


  1. Bill,

    Great piece on the obvious impending convergence of PlayReady and the world’s most popular consumer devices.

    I just wanted to point out that beyond offering this mobile PlayReady Technology, BuyDRM is actually a PlayReady SaaS provider who services a variety of media monoliths. We were the first company in the world to go live with a PlayReady service offering as well.

    The days of Windows Media DRM are in our collective rear view mirrors 🙂



  2. Yes…but what if you want to protect mp3 files you purchased on Amazon (which, without protection, work on Android Phones as well as in Windows Media Player).

    As the instructions on Microsoft’s webpage state, a user has to first setup an account with a license provider before one can use their DRM profile to protect their content with the Windows Media Encoder.

    One problem I see with this is the fact, that at present, there doesn’t seem to be any Android applications on the Amazon marketplace, which would facilitate playing these protected files on an Android phone in addition to being able to play these files in Windows Media Player.

    As the Microsoft page goes on to further state, “In order to play protected content, users must use a player that supports the Microsoft DRM technology, such as Windows Media Player.(For more information about the latest supported player, see the Windows Media Web page.)”

    Upon visiting the link to this Windows Media Web page, I could not find any link or resource which provides access to an application for Android or a description of how to make my purchased music content work on both my Android phone as well as Windows Media Player should I decide to protect these mp3’s using the Windows Media Encoder.

    Any new insight on this matter would be greatly appreciated and hopefully Microsoft isn’t going in the same direction as Apple by restricting protected content to only work with their software——-for that is one of the main reason’s I don’t like Apple and got away from using itunes a long time ago.

    It isn’t right or fair for these monster corporations to restrict user capability for the sake of maximizing profits because it forces us to purchase more of their products in order to make these mp3 files work on multiple devices.

    That is not only despicable but an obvious indication of a monopolizing an enterprise that could care less about what the consumer wants nor making our lives any easier.

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