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Navio: The DRM start-up in Apple's backyard

Navio is the latest start-up wanting to change the way you buy and manage your music and vidoes.

It is based in Cupertino, in the shadow of Apple Computer, the company it hopes to challenge on digital rights management technology. (Apple's technology makes it really difficult to play music on its iPod if it comes from sources other than its iTunes online store.)

Navio wants to let you bypass Apple in a comprehensive way (yes, there are lots of other efforts focused on music; TechCrunch has a good review of this area). Navio, though, lets you go online to find music, but also video, ring tones and other digital stuff. Here's how it works: When you find something -- say while perusing a blog or a producer's Web site -- you click the Navio "buy button." This takes you to a small, multi-function window -- a shopping cart that contains your preferred credit cards, etc, as well as an archive of what you've purchased in the past. You pay for the content, and then it can be moved to any device, regardless of format or any embedded copyright protections. Here is the Mercury News story about Navio (free registration), written by comrade John Boudreau.

The company raised $25.4 million late last year from VantagePoint Venture Partners, WK Technology Fund and Add Partners.

Interesting, but will it ever draw the attention of you, the Internet masses?

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Apple's DRM technology doesn't make it hard to play music on an iPod if it came from another store - it's the iPod's LACK of DRM software (for the Windows Media DRM format) that stops you from doing that. Purchased music that hasn't been crippled by DRM - for example, songs bought from cdbaby.com - will play on the iPod just fine.

Simon Willison on May 24, 2006 9:12 AM
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Oops, magnatune.com is the site I meant, not cdbaby.

Simon Willison on May 24, 2006 9:14 AM
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As a long-time eMusic subscriber your comment about the iPod laughably wrong: I have literally thousands tracks of legally purchased music on my iPod and had to put no effort whatsoever to get it there. As Simon pointed out the only problem is that many companies chose to use DRM to make their offerings less useful for their paying customers - a poor business decision what has most of the major-label music stores fighting for the distant third place behind Apple and eMusic, not any nefarious action on Apple's part. This is also why CD sales remain strong: DRM-encumbered music costs as much as a CD but comes with significant restrictions and lower quality (ironically eMusic's files tend to be noticeably higher quality than the few tracks I've sampled on Real/Napster/etc.) - unsurprisingly the bulk of most collections is music which has been ripped from CDs.

(It's worth noting that my eMusic and Magnatune tracks are actually *easier* to get on an iPod than Apple's offerings since you have to login to the iTunes music store the first time you attempt to play ITMS tracks on a new machine while uncrippled MP3s just work...)

Chris Adams on May 24, 2006 10:05 AM
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Great context. And I forgot to mention eMusic, specifically, which is an interesting case.

Matt Marshall on May 24, 2006 1:58 PM
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