SDMI will adopt MP3 as standard of choice - insider

In an extraordinary twist to the ongoing SDMI/MP3 debate, one industry insider says the SDMI, far from alienating MP3, could actually adopt it as its standard of choice.

The idea of the organisation backing the format it was originally set up to combat might seem strange but its recent U-turns on MP3 make Neil McGuinness, spokesman for Diamond, believe it could happen.

"It is very possible and would not be a face-losing U-turn as MP3 has evolved dramatically since the SDMI was set up," he said. "The fact the SDMI has not named its standard signifies it is looking closely at MP3."

Recent weeks have seen a series of MP3-friendly gestures from the SDMI. Yesterday's spec. for digital music players issues no one standard for the industry to use and goes to lengths to pacify MP3 aficionados. "Anyone who wishes to create and distribute music using unprotected formats will not be limited by the availability of this platform," it states. Its announcement on the standard for delivering online music was expected at the end of June but no announcement has yet been made and initial hostility to MP3 has turned to reluctant acceptance of the importance of the format.

Tuesday's spec. for portable devices was far from the anti-MP3 platform it originally promised to be, according to McGuinness. He believes the SDMI has compromised on the standards for digital players in order to pacify the MP3 community. "They have realised it is not going away," he said.

Diamond promises its next Rio will be SDMI-compliant.

Ernesto Schmitt, president of peoplesound.com, a new company that plans to offer free online listening posts for trying out digital music, thinks the SDMI faces a tough future. "It will be a hard time ahead for the SDMI. MP3 is so widely acceptable it will be almost impossible to turn around that ocean liner," he said. "It is going to be extremely difficult to enforce itself as a standard when consumers and hardware manufacturers are backing MP3."

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