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February 26, 2003--In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Microsoft Preps RTC Server Beta
- AOL Enters Subscriber Music Arena
- Join The HP & Microsoft Network Storage Solutions Road Show!
- Windows & .NET Magazine Connections: Real-World Technical Tips Here for You
3. CONTACT US
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* MICROSOFT PREPS RTC SERVER BETA
This Friday, Microsoft will unleash the first beta of its long-awaited Real-Time Communications (RTC) Server, code-named Greenwich. The product, which is designed to run on Windows Server 2003 systems, will give enterprises Instant Messaging (IM) capabilities based on the same technology Windows Messenger uses. But Greenwich, with features that will enable IM security, logging, and "follow-me" functionality, is designed to overcome the limitations that stunted the growth of IM in the enterprise.
"IM is a virtual network on top of the Internet, and we haven't figured out how to leverage that yet," Microsoft Product Unit Manager David Gurle said, speaking at the Instant Messaging Planet Spring 2003 Conference & Expo in Boston this week. "\[It's\] not about connecting terminals to terminals. What we've really created is a people-to-people Web." Gurle said that Greenwich's key feature is its presence functionality, which lets users see when other users are online and able to communicate.
Greenwich is already successful with beta customers. Reuters has deployed the technology to more than 250,000 users, for customers such as Deutsche Bank and Merrill Lynch. Microsoft originally planned to make the technology part of Windows 2003, but the company decided the product needed a longer development cycle. The company hasn't yet announced pricing or final availability, but Greenwich will likely ship this year.
* AOL ENTERS SUBSCRIBER MUSIC ARENA
AOL, the online division of AOL Time Warner, will soon discover whether its 35 million subscribers will pay additional monthly fees to download music to their PCs, a key test of digital-music subscriptions. The new service, MusicNet, will cost $4 to $18 a month, depending on whether subscribers choose limited access to AOL's music library or unlimited access with CD-burning functionality. Downloaded songs will be available for use only as long as users keep their subscriptions active.
For $4 a month, MusicNet subscribers will get limited access to more than 260,000 songs from a wide selection of AOL Time Warner's artists. For $9 a month, users will get unlimited access to the library. And for $18 a month, in addition to unlimited access, users will be able to burn 10 songs to CD each month. AOL says that it also will phase in an option that lets subscribers pay $1 to download individual songs.
If AOL can jumpstart digital-music sales, the company's success will be a first. Although other online music services such as RHAPSODY and pressplay boast similar-sized libraries, neither has been an overwhelming success. Jupiter Research says that fewer than 300,000 people regularly pay for monthly digital-music subscriptions; the market is currently worth less than $25 million, which is essentially a rounding error in AOL's recent financial losses. But AOL does have a few things going for it. The service currently boasts more than 50 percent of the songs on the Billboard top 200, and the company says it will offer 100 percent of the top songs, digitally, by the end of the year. Also, AOL has been sensitive to subscriber needs: Last year, after testing a version of MusicNet that garnered poor reviews, the company scuttled the project and reworked it according to subscriber requests.
Digital-music downloads are unlikely to trigger massive sales until Digital Rights Management (DRM) concerns can be resolved, however. Currently, most legitimately downloaded music contains locks that prevent users from burning the songs to CD, leaving consumers who want to mix their own CDs in the lurch.
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