Inisoft, a Korean company that does software development for mobile media applications, has acquired Texas-based BuyDRM. BuyDRM is a well-established player in the Microsoft DRM ecosystem with customers including HBO, BBC, and NBC. The company offers a DRM platform called KeyOS that incorporates Microsoft’s PlayReady DRM; Inisoft focuses on media player applications and DRM clients for mobile devices.
The deal is a good one for both parties as well as the premium video content marketplace in general. It enables BuyDRM — which will continue to operate under its own name — to increase its ability to offer the “one stop shopping” that service providers are often looking for, to build services that work on multiple devices more quickly and easily. This is increasingly necessary as service providers are scrambling to build “TV Everywhere” type services over multiple networks to a growing number of devices.
The newly-merged company is in a sweet spot in the video market, due to PlayReady’s emergence as a leading DRM for Hollywood content, for both streaming and download. Yet while Microsoft has fostered a healthy partner ecosystem, as it typically does for “platform” technologies like PlayReady, the ecosystem that exists can be confusing to service providers.
For one thing, Microsoft isn’t supporting the most popular client platforms by itself. Microsoft provides PlayReady server code and client code for Windows, Silverlight (Microsoft’s web application development platform), and Windows Phone, plus an SDK for porting to non-Microsoft platforms. But unlike other video DRM providers (e.g., Widevine), it doesn’t provide the actual ports to other client devices — including the most popular (and admittedly competing) platforms, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. Instead it leaves that to its partners.
The other problem is that Microsoft’s PlayReady partners cover an overlapping array of technologies and services that can be confusing to service providers who just want to get something up and running that meets Hollywood’s content protection requirements. There’s a profusion of vendors with different and often overlapping product sets. As a few examples: Discretix and Trusted Logic offer secure client ports but not server code; Axinom and castLabs offer server-side only; AuthenTec and Irdeto offer both server and client implementations; Verimatrix integrates PlayReady with its own stream protection technology; yet other vendors like Azuki Systems provide complete platforms for multiscreen Internet video content delivery with many more components beyond DRM.
The process of acquiring this technology is thus more complicated than it needs to be, especially in this age of proliferating devices and platforms. Service providers that are interested in using PlayReady to protect licensed content don’t get much help from Microsoft in guiding them through this maze of products and services; partners are left to do all the marketing. (Microsoft itself hasn’t put out a press release on PlayReady in over a year, despite its traction in the market.) In effect, Microsoft has let the market sort itself out through the relatively slow and cumbersome processes of partnerships, OEM deals, multiple-vendor arrangements, and — in the case of BuyDRM and Inisoft — mergers/acquisitions.
Having said that, Inisoft’s acquisition of BuyDRM should help bring some much-needed clarity to service providers. It is a positive development for the market for multi-device video services with studio content.