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"Don't do evil" company to flog videos with DRM

The Google Empire looks set to expand again, if reports in the Wall Street Journal prove accurate, with Google’s expected to launch a software package and an expanded video service complete with Google-style DRM, at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES).

According to the WSJ report:

Under the major upgrade to Google's video-search service, consumers will be able to pay to download and view videos, such as television shows, on their computers from Google content partners such as TV companies, people familiar with the matter say.

If the reports are correct, such a move would see Google go head-to-head with Apple, which is already selling videos through its iTunes store in a partnership with Walt Disney. Google has reportedly signed deals with CBS and the National Basketball Association.

The WSJ also says Google has developed its own digital-rights-management software to protect downloaded videos from piracy. Given the recent controversy surrounding DRM (cough, Sony) some will find this move ironic, given Google’s famous corporate motto, “Don’t do evil”.

Consumers are already frustrated by the incompatibilities of existing DRM software from the likes of Apple and Microsoft, so now it looks like Google is going to add a further unwanted complication to the DRM mess.

Google is also expected to announce Google Pack, a bundle of software from Google and other companies that users will be able to download and install on their computer.

Clearly the marketing budget was limited when it came to naming the product, but amongst the third party software expected to be included are the Firefox browser, Norton Anti-virus software, Trillian IM client , RealNetworks RealPlayer, Adobe’s PDF reader, Ad-Aware anti-spyware software, along with a number of Google’s own applications including desktop search, toolbar and Google Talk instant messaging software.

Apart from getting under the nose of Microsoft I can’t quite see the point of Google Pack. It seems like little more than Google-branded downloadable version of those ubiquitous cover disks that come with computer magazines. How many machines are there out there without Adobe’s Reader software and as for Norton’s anti-virus software, well there is already a great free alternative in the form of Grisoft’s AVG software.

I guess the aim will be to break Microsoft’s software stranglehold by getting manufacturers to pre-install software. Interestingly, Microsoft’s best buddy, Dell, has already started shipping PCs with the Firefox browser in the UK. No doubt details will become clearer following co-founder Larry Page’s speech at CES.

Update: In what is typical of the culture of secrecy that pervades Google, Larry Page, gave virtually no details on the nature of Google’s DRM. So, in effect, we have one of the world's most powerful technology companies constructing a DRM system that has left users completely in the dark.

You can read more on the actual announcement at The Register.