Microsoft and Liquid Audio team on online music

Liquid Audio will encode and distribute more than 50,000 downloadable songs and one million music previews in its catalogue using Windows Media technology, the companies said in a joint statement. In addition, Liquid Audio will also use Windows Media in its distribution network with more than 300 retailers.

Microsoft officials said the agreement will amount to a major boost for its Windows Media platform. "This a big endorsement for our technology and will lead to greater adoption of the Windows Media format," Kevin Unangst, Microsoft group product manager for digital media, said today in a telephone interview.

Liquid Audio already distributes copyrighted music files from record labels to Web sites in formats such as MP3, Dolby Digital, Advanced Audio Codec, and Sony Afrac 3, Unangst said.

Record companies, concerned with the security and copyrighted distribution of their music, should welcome the agreement, Phil Wiser, chief technology officer and co-founder of Liquid Audio, said.

"The record labels will feel the marketplace is getting a little simpler, and not becoming as much of a format war as they feared," Wiser said. "We are putting out copyright-friendly solutions."

Analysts said the agreement will increase the popularity of Window's Media. "The Microsoft platform will have more viability," Stacy Quandt, an analyst for Giga Information Group.

"This agreement will result in a broader distribution for both companies and brings them both closer to interoperability," Jim Penhume, an analyst with The Yankee Group.

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