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Microsoft buys audio technology for Windows CE (1999)

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San Francisco (April 27, 1999) -- Microsoft Corp. is expanding its push into the digital audio realm by purchasing technology developed by Interactive Objects that allows users of handheld devices running Windows CE to play audio in Microsoft's Windows Streaming Media file format.

The media player technology is the first stereo playback software for the palm-sized PC market supporting Microsoft's Windows Media Technologies 4.0 platform, Interactive Objects said in a statement today.

Microsoft also signed a contract with Interactive Objects to develop additional streaming technology for the Windows CE operating system, Interactive Objects said. The Windows Streaming Media file format allows for sending and receiving copyright-protected audio and video.

Interactive Objects, founded by former Microsoft employees in 1995 to develop object software for commercial Internet and intranet applications, unveiled its digital audio player technology April 13 at a Microsoft news conference in Los Angeles, said Suzanne Miller, marketing manager at Interactive Objects.

The player, which has a color user interface on CE-based systems, is being shipped on CDs accompanying Casio E-100 and E-105 personal digital assistants, scheduled to be available in May, Miller said. When loaded on the Casio E-100 the player can offer one to four hours of music in the Windows Media format, up to four times that of current MP3 players, the company said.

The player initially supported the MP3 compression technology for downloading music from the Web, Miller said, adding that she couldn't discuss the company's MP3 development plans. "There will be no development on MP3 with Microsoft, but that's not to say that we won't do development work with other people" on MP3, she said.

Meanwhile, under the ongoing contract, Interactive Objects will work with Microsoft to develop Windows desktop utilities, including Windows Media Rights Manager, that enable users to manage audio libraries between PCs and portable devices.

Users connect their portable devices to a docking station that connects to their PC and use their utilities to manage and encode their audio files on the PC, explained Miller. Encryption technologies will allow users to bundle together different audio files for playing on their portable devices without violating copyright protection, she said.