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Philips ends hold out, signs Windows Media deal

Posted: 13 May 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:windows platform? mp3? windows media audio? mpeg-2? mpeg-4?

Royal Philips Electronics and its semiconductor unit announced a long-term licensing agreement to support Microsoft Windows Media audio and video codecs and Microsoft's digital rights management (DRM 10) scheme in it consumer and chip products.

The move, in essence, is an acknowledgement by Philips that the Windows platform has become a key element in the company's "connected home" strategy. Although Philips Consumer Electronics already sells a flash-based portable music player that supports both MP3 and Windows Media Audio, the company had not incorporated Microsoft's proprietary Windows Media video codec in its home video systems. Until now, Philips developed consumer video systems supporting only industry standard video codecs such as MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and h.264.

Compared to most leading consumer chip vendors who have already ported the Windows Media video codec to their chips, Philips Semiconductors remained one of the last holdouts not offering chip solutions supporting Windows Media video.

Said Frans van Houten, president and CEO of Philips Semiconductors, "As the PC becomes a gateway or a hub within the home, our consumer systems need to get connected with it." Previously, Microsoft wasn't pervasive in homes, and Windows Media video "wasn't a relevant codec," he said. "It is now."

As a chip vendor, Philips Semiconductors "needs to offer a complete system solution," said van Houten. By porting Windows Media codecs and DRM 10 software to its Nexperia silicon platform, Philips Semiconductors hopes to become a one-stop shop for consumer electronics OEMs demanding complete solutions, he explained. "Our job is to make my customers' life easier."

While the Dutch giant has decided to support Microsoft's Widows Media codecs and DRM, it remains unclear why it didn't go a step further and embrace the Windows Application API for its Nexperia platform.

Earlier this year, van Houten made a public plea at the Consumer Electronics Show to adopt the Universal Home API (UH-API), an initiative Philips launched jointly with Samsung Electronics last year. UH-API has been pitched as an open API to achieve greater interoperability among consumer electronics, systems and software applications.

Van Houten claimed that Philips continues to promote UH-API. But the licensing agreement with Microsoft is about giving "a pallet of choices" to its customers, he explained.

Van Houten said embracing Windows for every consumer electronics devices makes little sense. "Would you want to install the Windows CE operating system on a DSP-based flash memory music player?" he asked rhetorically. "I don't think so. We need to have a scalable solution."

Philips Electronics had been negotiating the licensing deal with with Microsoft since last year, according to van Houten.

Philips plans to support Microsoft Windows Media audio and video and Windows Media DRM 10 in its Nexperia chips used in digital media receivers, personal video recorders, portable audio players, IP set-top boxes and video phones. Support of Windows Media in Nexperia for in-car entertainment and next-generation digital TV systems will follow later in the year, the chip maker said.

- Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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