By Robert Menta - 6/27/01
It is proving to be as popular as its predecessor as users flock to get it. Yesterday, Thomson Multimedia announced that 600,000 users have downloaded mp3PRO in the first two weeks of it's release.
mp3PRO, an update on the standard MP3 format, uses recent technological advances and improved compression techniques to drop music file sizes in half without sacrificing sound quality. This made MP3 more competitive to rival formats who already took advantage of some of these advances. mp3PRO was made available June 14th in a limited demo version.
Said Thomson Vice President and head of the mp3PRO licensing program Henri Linde, "We are delighted with the response for the limited version of mp3PRO and look forward to a full implementation in software packages, chipsets, computers, and portable devices. We expect mp3PRO to be offered in a complete range of compression bitrates with the full functionality of any music compression format".
Some analysts were concerned that because MP3Pro contains no built-in mechanism to thwart the trading of music files it was in danger of failure because the record industry would never sanction it for their upcoming products. That fear has been diminished by the program's quick acceptance by the populace who trade, rip, and listen to the music.
mp3PRO's popularity is important to Thomson who are banking that MP3 portable manufacturers and software producers will adopt MP3Pro into their offerings. That means added licensing fees for the company. It costs a manufacturer $3.75 per unit they distribute for the standard MP3 license. Thomson expects to get $7.50 per unit to license both the MP3 and MP3Pro formats.
Some manufacturers already offer other formats like Microsoft's WMA in their products, formats that also charge licensing fees. To keep costs low, they are inclined to restrict the number of formats their products can play to only those with a significant audience.
To that Linde replied, "With more than 12 million portable mp3 players, and 250 million personal computers playing mp3 files, the ubiquitous mp3 format has a strong lead in digital audio compression. mp3PRO builds on that success by offering better compression rates and enhanced audio fidelity".
If Linde is right, mp3PRO will put further pressure on the competition should it too gain ubiquity. That's because it will leave less available slots for products looking to fill consumer need while keeping license expenses as low as possible. That's bad news for the likes of Liquid Audio, Real Audio, ATRAC3, Ogg Vorbis, and AAC.
Even Microsoft's WMA format - MP3's strongest competitor - is at risk of being pushed out of the low end of the market. In a couple of years, when lower priced portable models should be introduced between $50 to $75, $7.50 for the dual MP3/mp3PRO licensing will make up a significant percentage of the sales price. Microsoft may be able to push WMA on the desktops its operating system controls, but away from the computer it may find acceptance a little harder to come by.
For those who have yet to download it, mp3Pro is available at RCA's website.
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