“While Apple Computer grabs publicity for its new 99 cent music download store, Microsoft is quietly preparing for a counterattack by improving its own technology for supporting subscription music services. Services such as Pressplay, which uses Microsoft technology, have been put on the defensive with news that Apple has sold more than 2 million downloads since April 28, the day its iTunes Music Store launched. But Microsoft is betting that new security enhancements planned for later this year could make renting music, rather than owning it, more attractive to consumers,” writes Evan Hansen for CNET News.com.

“Microsoft said it is developing software that makes it easier for subscription services to transfer music to portable music players. These services now provide unlimited downloads of hundreds of thousands of songs to a PC for a monthly fee, but they typically do not allow files to be moved around much. Microsoft said it will soon address this shortcoming with technology that will allow unlimited downloads to a portable device–a dramatic improvement. ‘We can already support unlimited downloads tethered to the PC,’ said Jonathan Usher, director of Microsoft’s Windows Media division. ‘The next step is enabling access to unlimited downloads on consumer devices,'” reports Hansen.

“Microsoft plans to add support for a clock in portable music players and other consumer-electronics devices. The clock would provide a “time out” feature much like that used in PC versions of its DRM software. If customers don’t pay their monthly subscription bills by a certain date, access to the files on those devices is cut off,” Hansen writes.

“‘We already support a couple of business models,’ Usher said. ‘The other part of the business model that gets interesting is, what about unlimited downloads? The Apple store is not looking at or supporting anything like that,” Hansen reports.

Full article here.