Ninemsn cements multimedia status

Ninemsn has cemented itself as a major multimedia channel for Australian PC users through inclusion in Windows Media Center, but Microsoft has left the door open for competitors.

Ninemsn is the featured music download service in the new version of Windows Media Player. Media Center will also include ninemsn as the default music download service over the next few months.

"By bringing our service in line with the global MSN Music offering we will be able to take advantage of global product roll-outs and updates to the world's largest network of legal online music download services," ninemsn CEO Martin Hoffman said.

Windows XP Media Center Edition is Microsoft's latest operating system, designed for multimedia playback.

Ninemsn news and entertainment will also be featured by Media Center via its Online Spotlight section over the coming year. This will include content from ninemsn companies like the Nine Network.

However, the Online Spotlight is not exclusive to Microsoft-backed companies, according to Windows product manager Danny Beck.

"There are certain requirements a provider has to meet, but there's no reason why another content provider couldn't enter into an agreement [with Microsoft]," he said.

"We'll be expanding the breadth of content on the Online Spotlight over the coming months."

Media Center's launch should bolster ninemsn's grab for Australians against competing providers like Destra and Yahoo.

Ninemsn rivals like Destra also use Windows Media Player for digital rights managements to sell multimedia content like music and video.

Windows Media Player is used by over four million Australians, according to Microsoft.

Destra CEO Domenic Carosa was not worried by the announcement, however.

"It's good news for the market," he said.

"It legitimises the legal download space. Our biggest competitor is the free Web sites out there, like Kazaa and eDonkey."

The size of Destra's partner network would ensure ninemsn had no easy ride in the paid download space, he said.

"All the partners we have; HMV, Sanity, Harvey Norman, they have millions walking through their stores each month.

"We have loyalty programs for customers.

"The physical presence that we have in place; no Web site can do that."

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