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While the Napster predicament continues to monopolize the online music situation, there’s another, less glamorous story brewing that could change the rules of the digital music game as much as Napster already has. Microsoft’s upcoming operating system, Windows XP, will feature a new version of Windows Media Player and a new system called the Secure Audio Pathway (SAP), which could make Microsoft the only DRM game in town. The driver-level content protection scheme could lay the first realistic groundwork for the secure distribution of audio and video content over the Internet. Early reports have insinuated that this might be the end of the free trade of MP3 files–for Windows XP and ME users, anyway. But for most users, the only real effect of the system should be the availability of more digital music–if the SAP arrangement assuages the content owners’ nightmares of people cracking the protection around the files that they want to sell. The SAP system is a bit confusing and has caused many people to overreact, fearing the worst.