Music Stars Back HP in Piracy Battle
LAS VEGAS -- Sheryl Crow, Dr. Dre, and Alicia Keys were among the major recording artists who backed Carly Fiorina on stage at the Consumer Electronics Show here Thursday, where the Hewlett-Packard chairman and CEO took perhaps the toughest stand yet by a technology industry executive against digital music piracy.
At a conference where products for recording and sharing digital content are in abundance, Fiorina said HP is determined to help stamp out the illegal copying of music and video by building tough protection technologies into virtually all its consumer products.
"We are very proud to stand on this stage and take a tough stand on digital piracy," Fiorina said at her keynote address. "Too much digital content is still being taken illegally, undermining business models and artistic integrity."
"Starting this year, HP will strive to build every one of our products to protect digital rights," she said.
Songbirds Support HP
In a photo opportunity most CEOs only dream of, Fiorina was joined on stage by a string of music industry heavyweights. The chorus included U2 guitarist The Edge, Eminem manager Paul Rosenberg, and Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Universal Music Group's Interscope label, which produces U2, Limp Bizkit, and others.
Iovine offered an impassioned, sometimes rambling speech about how file-swapping services like Kazaa harm the music industry, recording artists, and moral values.
"On behalf of Universal Music Group, we're going to support HP to the point where they're going to beg us to stop," he said. "For a company that is willing to be this brave and forward thinking, we will show what our industry can do" to help HP in return, he said.
HP will build, license or acquire the best content protection technologies it can find to prevent its customers from illegally downloading and sharing copyright material, Fiorina said.
Its DVD Movie Writer, used to record video tapes onto DVDs, already includes protection technology that prevents consumers from illegally copying VHS tapes, she said. "Soon that technology will be in every one of our products."
HP will also implement the broadcast flag into some of its products this year, she said. The technology has been endorsed by the Federal Communications Commission as a way of preventing consumers from recording digital television content and distributing it illegally over the Internet.
"And we'll introduce new technology this year that will encrypt some recorded content," Fiorina said.
In Tune With Apple
For the music industry, HP is supporting Apple's ITunes online music store, where consumers can purchase songs for download for 99 cents. Earlier Thursday, HP announced a partnership with Apple to sell an HP branded version of Apple's IPod music player.
Fiorina showed HP's device for the first time in her talk, and said it will go on sale in June. In light blue and silver, it looked from a distance very much like Apple's own IPod player. The company will also include Apple's ITunes software with all of its consumer PCs, and provide a desktop link that makes it easier for consumers to visit the ITunes music store.
"HP is going to bring this award-winning product and service to market on a massive scale," Fiorina said.
The moves are part of a broader effort by HP to turn itself into a significant provider of digital consumer products. Fiorina announced several new consumer products that will ship over the next 18 months, as HP tries to become a top provider of consumer electronics goods.
They will include competitively priced "entertainment displays," such as a 30-inch LCD screen and a 42-inch plasma screen, which will ship in the third quarter, she said. Besides serving as high-quality television screens, the displays will play back digital movies and photographs from a PC and other sources, she said.
Living Room Ware
HP will also "dramatically" cut the price of its digital projectors, which customers can use to build a home entertainment center, Fiorina said. HP will market a Media Center Extender, which Microsoft announced Wednesday. It conects to a television to display content from a Media Center PC.
HP is also developing what Fiorina called an "entertainment hub" for the living room. The product will act as a central repository to store digital music and video, and also connect to a television so viewers can pause live TV and record programming, she said.
"It will be sleek and stylish and work with existing products and devices, but it will work better with HP technologies," she said. She didn't offer a price or date for availability.
Finally, HP is developing a version of its IPaq handheld computer that doubles as a remote control for appliances in the home.
Connecting products around the home is a top priority, Fiorina said, adding that all consumer products are all becoming "digital, mobile and virtual."
"What matters now is making it all work together in a way that creates simple, enjoyable digital entertainment experiences at an affordable price," she said.
But most of the speech was given over to the issue of music piracy. Instead of the computer industry's Moore's Law, Fiorina coined a new term: Kazaa's Law, after the popular file-sharing software.
"Kazaa's Law states that our sense of right and wrong does not evolve as fast as our technology. Just because we can do wrong doesna??t mean we should. Just because we can steal music doesna??t mean we should," she said.
She claimed that HP has cancelled products in recent years because it was unhappy with the level of copyright protection they offered.
How customers will respond to HP's promise to sell products that prevent illegal content sharing remains to be seen. Services and products such as Napster and Kazaa attracted millions of users apparently unconcerned about the rights and wrongs of downloading copyright material for free.
Alicia Keys, who performed two songs at the piano here, delivered a message after her performance that seemed at odds with the general message of zero tolerance.
"This is what I tell kids: You can download, but if you like what you hear, go out and buy it, go out and support the artist," she said.
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