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SDMI Targets Additional Devices

Palo Alto, Calif. — The Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) is close to approving an initial round of device-specification amendments that would give suppliers the option of building a variety of SDMI-compliant products outside of the PC environment.

The current specifications allow for playback-only headphone portables that use solid-state memory to store music files. The specs also require the use of a PC to rip or download music before it can be stored on the device’s memory.

Under a proposed amendment expected to be finalized at a plenary session “way before the year is out,” said executive director Leonardo Chiarglione, suppliers would be able to build SDMI-compliant wireless phones, AM/FM/CD boomboxes, tuner-equipped flash-memory portables, and portable voice recorders.

Other types of devices might be possible, given that the amendments define functionality, not specific product configurations, said Chiarglione. In addition, the amendments are written in a way that they could be applied to future types of products not currently envisioned.

The next plenary session is planned for Sept. 15 in Brussels.

In the case of wireless phones, a revised spec would make it possible to design an SDMI-compliant wireless phone that plays back content stored on removable or embedded memory, or downloads and stores music files received wirelessly.

The initial amendments, proposed by SDMI’s strategic planning advisory group, were limited to “functionality that could be addressed easily,” said Karl DeManss, Samsung product planning manager and co-chair of the peripheral technologies working group. The intent was to make a greater variety of devices available to consumers as soon as possible.

The initiative, however, has also created another working group, called the additional functionality working group, to consider more complicated revisions that would allow for an even greater variety of SDMI-compliant products, DeManss said. The group is still defining the scope of its effort, but it could potentially include devices such as:

  • · Solid-state headphone portables that rip and play back music.
  • · Home-component-style hard-drive audio recorders with downloading or ripping capabilities.
  • · And boomboxes, home CD recorders and shelf systems with downloading or ripping capabilities.

The group hopes to make some initial recommendations to the SDMI plenary session in Brussels, DeManss said.

Other potential products could include headphone CD players, car CD players and shelf systems that lack ripping capabilities but play back recordable CDs burned on a PC with MP3 or other types of compressed files.

The SDMI organization can’t simply apply the current device specs to other types of devices because they wouldn’t clearly spell out how the spec could be implemented in other applications, might not provide adequate security, or might create unintended consequences, DeManss pointed out. He cited tuner-equipped boomboxes as an example of unintended consequences.

The existing SDMI specifications, he explained, mandate a future screening technology that will enable an SDMI device to detect whether a file is a serial copy of a file made on another SDMI-compliant device. That mandate could be interpreted as requiring a tuner-equipped boombox to screen an FM music broadcast for a serial-copy marker.

If, for example, a college radio station inadvertently broadcast a serial copy of a song made on an SDMI-compliant device, the boombox would mute, aggravating the customer and potentially contributing to higher return rates.

In the case of wireless phones, the existing spec could be interpreted as requiring a phone that screens digital voice conversations for Phase II content, adding to their expense and unnecessarily using up the phone’s resources.