Thomson Upgrades the MP3 Format.

By Richard Menta- 1/11/01

Download for MP3Pro is now available below - editor (6/14/01)

No, it's not called MP4, but the new version of MP3 is coming. Thomson Multimedia, the company that co-developed the MP3 format, has announced an update to the popular compression scheme. Called MP3 Pro, the new format drops file sizes in half while retaining the same quality.

The new format will be compatible with existing MP3 players, a move that will make it instantly adaptable by the present army of digital music collectors. The company says it plans to release the new codec in the summer of 2001.

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Despite being the standard in digital music, the compression scheme is facing challenges from several rivals. These rivals include Microsoft's WMA format, Sony's ATRAC3 format, Universal's Bluematter format, Liquid Audio, Ogg Vorbis, and others including a license free alternative being developed by open-source programmers. All of these formats claim higher quality from smaller file sizes.

According to Dave Arland, Thomson's director of public relations "This development of MP3Pro was really done to address a competitive need because there are other codecs that have built on the success of MP3,"

The market advantages are clear for MP3Pro, most notably it has the MP3 brand on it. The MP3 format's closest rival is Microsoft's WMA format, a codec that is picking up steam because of Microsoft's power and the ubiquity it is able to bring to its WMA player by merging it into the Windows operating system. Microsoft hopes to steer users to its digital music format the same way it steered them from Netscape to Internet Explorer.

The question that remains is unanswered is whether MP3Pro will include security protocols to protect copyright material. Adding such a protocol would undoubtedly receive cheers from content owners like the major music labels, but it does not serve the wants of the general audience who may eschew any technology that puts restrictions on the music they listen to. Some analysts see the lack of copyright protection measures to be a competitive advantage for the standard MP3 format.

MP3 was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, which shares patent rights to the MP3 format with Thomson. Coding Technologies, a company spun off from the Fraunhofer Institute, developed the MP3Pro compression scheme.

Copyright MP3 Newswire 2001

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