“After offering confirmation of recent reports that Microsoft will release an iPod-competitive media player called Zune, representatives of iPod accessory manufacturers have disclosed to iLounge that the Redmond, Washington-based company has contacted them regarding potential accessory licensing and compatibility plans for the device, similar to Apple’s Made For iPod program. Like all current iPods except for the iPod shuffle, Zune will feature a proprietary expansion port that Microsoft will allow companies to accessorize at a lower rate than the Made For iPod program, and one which a source suggests will likely lead to widespread iPod industry third-party support for the new device,” Jeremy Horwitz reports for iLounge.

“Additionally, iLounge has heard that Zune will most likely follow Apple’s recent decision – as seen in the upcoming Nike+iPod Sport Kit – to use some form of proprietary wireless communication technology, eschewing the open Bluetooth standard in favor of one developed at least in part by Microsoft. As previously reported, the Nike+iPod Sport Kit uses an Apple-developed version of 802.11, which may offer bandwidth and other benefits over the various flavors of Bluetooth, but could lock third-party developers out from creating compatible accessories,” Horwitz reports.

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Greg H.” for the heads up.]
Microsoft sounds serious about grabbing Apple’s leftovers. It remains to be seen how their so-called “partners” like Creative, SanDisk, Toshiba, Sony, MTV, Napster, etc. will react if and when Microsoft’s “Zune” vapor solidifies. There still is, after all, a nice minority share of the market that iPod+iTunes doesn’t own. It looks like Microsoft wants it all for themselves as usual.

One question springs immediately to mind: If Microsoft starts to show any momentum, would Steve Jobs decide to get the also-ran device makers and music services on the horn and, oh, how about… license FairPlay to them? Then everyone except Microsoft would be iTunes and iPod compatible. Whoops! All Zune-related development, marketing, manufacturing, and other costs = total write-off. Game, Set, Match.

That’s one way to go. Another is to just stay the course, which would be even easier to do if Mac growth were to ramp up at the same time. And, if just some of what’s rumored for next-gen iPods comes true, then Microsoft and the rest of the roadkill are in for the usual world of hurt. Even if Microsoft could somehow manage it, it’d take quite some time for them to significantly impact Apple’s iPod+iTunes juggernaut.

What do you think?

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