Despite optimism, SDMI wavers

Due to uncertainty about the technology and its implications, SDMI had ceded the spotlight in the digital music realm to such rivals as MP3 and Napster. But SDMI returned to centre stage during the last week with the announcement of the Hack SDMI challenge, in which the organization offered $Us10,000 to any hacker able to crack the technology's encryption code. However, the question remains whether this time SDMI is in the spotlight to stay.

SDMI is the music industry's response to the challenges posed by the digitisation of music. In the future, many, and possibly all, compact discs will be SDMI-compliant, meaning that each song will have a "watermark" embedded in it. When songs are copied to a computer, this watermark will govern how a song may be copied and played, and who has to pay for it and when.

Since it was first announced in December 1998, SDMI, a body composed of more than 180 companies, has developed slowly. This is because it is difficult to create a consensus among such a large group on the technical and political issues involved, said Mike Reed, the vice president of marketing for the Rio division of S3, makers of portable MP3 players and an SDMI member.

Not only that, but there are many consumer issues which have yet to be resolved, Reed said. SDMI, as currently composed, would not allow the playing of existing MP3 files on SDMI-compliant players. This will be difficult for consumers to accept, he said, because they already have music libraries that they will want to listen to.

SDMI also needs to be easier for consumers to understand and use, he said. People do not want to have to keep track of their copying, he said, referring to the current specification that would limit the number of times a file could be copied. Such limits have raised concerns that SDMI will fundamentally alter consumer rights. SDMI needs to address those concerns, Reed said.

But, according to SDMI's Chiariglione, the scale of copying allowed by the Internet and digital music changes everything. People cannot justify illegal copying or sharing just because they are able to do it, he added, noting that such a position is "naive, at best."

That SDMI's executive director and one of its member companies can have such different views of the technology's readiness underscores how difficult it is to find consensus on the subject. Some resolution may be arrived at, however, at the next SDMI meeting, October 11-13 in Los Angeles. At that meeting, issues bound to be discussed include the Hack SDMI challenge and implementation of Phase 2 of SDMI, which will bar the playback of non-SDMI music files on SDMI-compliant devices.

If these difficulties can be overcome, though, the future looks bright to all involved. Chiariglione sees SDMI as opening new relationships between businesses and users.

"SDMI is about giving opportunities to sell music directly to customers," he said.

S3's Reed is guardedly optimistic.

"If executed right, [SDMI will make] more content available in a very simple way and very efficient manner for consumers," Reed said.

But, at least for now, that seems like a big "if."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sam Costello

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?