TOKYO Sony Corp. has developed what it calls the first audio player that's compliant with the specifications of the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI). Called the Memory Stick Walkman, Sony hopes the player will become the killer application for Memory Stick, a chewing gum shaped flash card that the company has been promoting.
Though SDMI hasn't finalized its specs, the goals of the initiative are clear. "Once digital data is downloaded to a personal computer and stored in the hard disk, copyright is ignored" in the PC environment, said Kunitake Ando, president of Sony Information Technology Co., at this week's VAIO Congress in Tokyo. "How to secure copyright at personal computers was the hurdle that we have to clear when we try to merge PC and AV."
Sony announced the player is SDMI specification compliant, but the SDMI specifications have not been concretely nailed down yet, though the Version 1.0 of the SDMI specifications was announced in July, and an SDMI meeting on the specs is being held this week in New York. Sony intends to make the Memory Stick Walkman compliant with the specifications defined at the SDMI meeting, and will support the digital watermarking scheme that SDMI decides to adopt.
Sony has made the Memory Stick Walkman a secured player of music downloaded from the Internet by employing proprietary secure middleware consisting of MagicGate and OpenMG technology based on SDMI specifications, the company said.
The scheme accepts audio CD data and MP3 files distributed on networks, but Sony has prepared a proprietary environment and new data compression technology to handle the data.
MagicGate, a combination of authentication and encryption/decryption technology, relies on a chip with encryption and authentication functions. Both the new Walkman and the Memory Sticks will use the chip. Under Sony's scheme, content is transmitted and stored in an encrypted format on a Memory Stick to prevent unauthorized copying or playback. The chips in the hardware authenticate that each other is MagicGate compliant, and then digital content is decrypted for playback using a public key system.
Sony said last March that it intended to use the MagicGate technology in its upcoming Memory Stick Walkman. OpenMG application software resident on a personal computer accepts digital data, encrypts it with an OpenMG key, and converts the data for ATRAC3 to store on the PC's hard disk. (ATRAC3 is an encoder/decoder that Sony has developed for the Memory Stick.) The technology also manages the secure exchange of music content between a Memory Stick Walkman and a personal computer.
As the OpenMG is compliant with the SDMI guideline, OpenMG creates a maximum of four copies of digital audio content. Setting aside one copy for direct playback from the hard disk, OpenMG allows three copies to be transferred to three Memory Sticks, which can then be used in other Memory Stick Walkman players that are compliant with MagicGate. But if the user want to "check" out the same content to fourth Memory Stick, one copy should be "checked" in from one of the previous three Memory Sticks to the hard disk. OpenMG also prevents the unauthorized transmission of music content across a network, and controls the playing period of that content as specified by content suppliers.
Each Memory Stick Walkman will include a 64-Mbyte Memory Stick, which can store 60 minutes of music in EX mode, 80 minutes in SP mode and 120 minutes in LP mode. Frequency response is 20-20,000 Hz.
The Memory Stick Walkman will be offered in Japan for about $430 beginning Dec. 21, and will be Introduced in the United States at almost the same time, though U.S. pricing has not been disclosed.
The newest Walkman measures 37 x 96.3 x 19.2 mm in size and weighs 65 grams.
Sony developed the Memory Stick, a flash memory card with a 10-pin connecter, in July 1997 with Casio, Fujitsu, Olympus, Sanyo and Sharp. Though Sony has said it is negotiating with many companies about licensing the technology, no other company has yet announced or introduced a product based on the Memory Stick.