TOKYO Eight Japanese audio manufacturers will launch a music distribution service directly to audio devices starting on May 20.
Apple Computer Inc. will kick start the hard disk-based music distribution service with its iPod. Meanwhile, the eight companies are working to establish services that are independent from PCs and secure from unauthorized copying.
Sony Corp., Kenwood Corp., Pioneer Corp. and Sharp Corp. formed a company in January 2003 to prepare a common platform for the distribution service. The platform is based on Sony's OpenMG X copyright management technology and ATRAC3 audio compression technology, which is used for MD disks.
The four companies and four supporters Onkyo Corp., D&M Holdings Inc. (Marantz and Denon), Victor Company of Japan, Ltd. (JVC) and Yamaha Corp. expanded the preparatory company to establish Any Music Inc. in February with a capital investment of ¥600 million (about $5.6 million). The original four companies hold a 15.9-percent share in the equity of the new company; the rest hold 9.1 percent.
Any Music will cooperate with LableGate Co. Ltd., which was formed by major music label companies in Japan to distribute music over networks. It holds 38,000 music titles. Along with a registration and monthly fees, users can download single songs or one album. Downloaded music can be moved to a portable audio player under the copy- control scheme based on Open MG X.
Any Music customers also will have access to information on songs being played on FM radio stations and will be able to make purchase CDs and download music. For this service, Any Music has recruited FM broadcasters and one of Japan's largest CD retailers as partners.
Coinciding with the launch, Sony and Pioneer announced audio systems compatible with Any Music. They include 40-Gbyte hard disk drives and will sell for about ¥110,000 (about $1,000).