Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

At Microsoft, we know that customers appreciate the importance of choice and compatibility. If you're in the market for a new digital media player, look for the logo that ensures interoperability with a wide variety of players from our valued partners and wretched competitors such as Creative, Samsung, iRiver, Archos and Sandisk. PlaysForSure means that you won't be locked into one company's digital media player. On the other hand, isn't that worth the convenience and elegant integration you'd get with a sweet, sweet Zune player?

PlaysForSure also means that you'll have access to the widest variety of digital music stores, so you can choose from content offered by Napster and Yahoo! Music or, for an even better experience, you can take advantage of the great integration of MTV Networks' Urge with Windows Media Player 11 -- an experience so good that we'd just as soon pass on it in favor of a whole new music management application that will integrate with our own player and store. Finally, we'll have something to compete with that company that owns MSN Music. There are also a number of excellent PlaysForSure video services such as CinemaNow and MovieLink that we're going to trounce with the service supporting Zune.


One of the best features of PlaysForSure is the ability to subscribe to all the music you want for a low monthly fee. But that becomes really cool when you can share that music wirelessly with other subscribers, and for that PlaysForSure will be as useful as a broken m:robe 500. PlaysForSure also won't do much to ensure a wide variety of dockable accessories, another area where Zune will beat the skins off any PlaysForSure player

PlaysForSure isn't just about portable media either. Using certified digital media receivers such as those from Roku and Slim Devices, you can stream protected audio from your PC to any room in the house. That kind of functionality is tough to beat, but we feel up to the challenge.

So look for the PlaysForSure logo with its five-part badge system that's significantly easier to figure out than the homeland security threat level indicator. In fact, look hard for it, because you won't find it anywhere on our own digital music player. Remember that if your player doesn't support PlaysForSure, you risk purchasing the product with the broadest industry support or ours, which we think will be the best on the market.

If you'd like more information on PlaysForSure, head on over to your PC and check out the PlaysForSure web site. Or you may want to wait until the next Super Bowl when traffic will be low as we'll be driving it somewhere else entirely.

Microsoft. Your products. Our prerogative.


Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis for consumer technology at market research and analysis firm The NPD Group and a contributing editor for LAPTOP. Views expressed in Switched On are his own. Feedback is welcome at fliptheswitch@gmail.com.

Researchers develop sticky gecko-like material