Thurrott: Microsoft’s ‘iPod killer’ just ‘ain’t going to happen’

“Six months must have gone by, because Microsoft is once again promising that its hardware partners are on the cusp of offering competition for Apple’s seemingly ubiquitous MP3 player. Microsoft, of course, doesn’t make MP3 player hardware (not yet anyway) but they’re now working with companies such as Creative, iRiver, and others to ensure that the next generation of PC-based MP3 players work as well, look as well, and integrate as well as Apple’s iPods,” Paul Thurrott writes for WinInfo.

“Guys, let me save you a lot of time and money: It ain’t going to happen. If Apple would simply open up the iPod to WMA (Windows Media Audio) files and PC-based online music services, the iPod would accomplish two things: It would literally be perfect, and it would blow away any reason at all to consider any other kinds of music players. Don’t think Apple will take those bold steps? My guess–and it’s only a guess–is that they will if the competition starts to finally show up,” Thurrott writes.

Full article, including Paul’s examination of “poor” Creative Technology’s situation here.
God help us, we agree with Thurrott’s assessment. Apple will allow WMA on iPod or license FairPlay to other services if or when they need to do so. Right now, of course, there is no reason to do either of these things. Unless or until something like that happens, Microsoft and the portable digital music player makers will be firing blanks.

Thurrott’s come a long way since September 2004 when he wrote, “Apple’s fans would love to believe that one company can go it alone against a consortium of consumer electronics and PC industry titans, both history and current events tell us otherwise. In other words, I’ve got bad news for Apple: Unless you make some changes, and quickly, you’ve already lost the game… If Apple doesn’t change its ways, the company simply won’t survive… If you care about Apple, like I do, it’s time to take a stand and ask the company — no, beg the company — to reevaluate its posture and open its products. Otherwise, we’ll simply look back on the iPod and smile sadly, as we do when we think about other once-hot fads — like Pet Rocks, Rubik’s Cubes, and Ouija Boards.”

Related articles:
Microsoft still working with Philips, Samsung, Creative on Apple iPod killers – August 10, 2005
Study: 32 million U.S. adults plan to buy iPod in next 12 months – July 20, 2005
Needham & Co: Apple ‘iPod Halo Effect’ fueling Mac purchases; predict 43 million iPod sales in 2006 – July 18, 2005
Apple smashes street with record revenue, earnings; shipped 6.155 million iPods – July 13, 2005
Tech writer Thurrott: ‘If Apple doesn’t change its ways, the company simply won’t survive’ – September 16, 2004
WinInfo’s Thurrott: Apple acting ‘petty’ by not allowing Microsoft to sell music for iPod – September 03, 2004
Microsoft’s plan to steal Apple’s rock ‘n’ roll mojo faces rocky road – September 01, 2004
Tech writer Thurrott: Apple must ‘open up the iPod for the good of all music lovers’ – August 03, 2004


  1. if apple made WMA, it would be god’s gift to mac heads…

    even if it was still inferior quality… people would still defend it, saying well… that’s the sacrifice you have to make to have an all-in-one.

    Don’t believe me? Most people say Ogg/Vorbis is better than AAC, yet people defend AAC saying that they can’t tell the difference… or defending 128 kb bit rates from itms saying that you can’t really tell the difference anyhow…

    blah blah blah…

  2. Sigh…our little Paul is growing a brain. Oh, the times they are a changin’!

    What I’d like to see happen in the near future is not for Apple to open the iPod to WMA (because it’s crap), but rather, I’d like to see them license the FairPlay DRM to MS, so that at least it can be considered the standard. Maybe someday they’ll allow the iPod to use WMA, but I don’t think it’s time yet.

  3. “Don’t think Apple will take those bold steps? My guess–and it’s only a guess–is that they will if the competition starts to finally show up.”

    Erm, that’s not a guess, Steve Jobs has gone on record as saying something like that if the market dominance of the iPod was threatened, then he would switch on WMA support, it’s already supported on the iPod’s chip anyway, Apple just switched that bit off.

    Just in the same way that if subscription music services actually became more favourable in the future, the iTMS would switch on a ready-to-go subscription service.

    All these doomsayers regarding Apple and any of its products base their future predictions on one assumption, that Apple will not innovate, and change their product in line with market forces.

    Another example of this is doomsayers comparing Vista to OS X Tiger.

    Vista doesn’t exist as a shipping product, by the time it does we’ll have Leopard and be even further ahead of Microsoft.

  4. From articles on TUAW and Macsimum News…
    Microsoft’s Head of Digital Media, Erik Huggers, announced yesterday his company’s intention to directly compete with the iPod. “Come this fall there is going to be a number of devices that get close to competing with Apple’s iPod…there is going to be a whole lineup of products that can compete with Apple in industrial design, usability, functionality and features.”

    Microsoft is working with electronics makers including Royal Philips Electronics NV, Samsung Electronics Co. and Creative Technology Ltd. “to design and test music players that rival iPod.”

    The operative words are “Come this fall”. Come this fall, maybe Microsoft will have just risen up to the bar that Apple has set with its current iPod line.

    So Microsoft will have just caught up to the old lineup by the time Apple ships their new lineup. Again, MS always playing catch up and follow the leader (of innovation).

  5. “If Apple made WMA…”

    First of all, Apple doesn’t make WMA, so it’s a moot point. They don’t “make” AAC either. AAC was brought to you by the same group of people who brought us MP3.

    Second, most people have never even heard of Ogg. But you’re right, I can’t tell the difference between AAC and Ogg at the same bitrate (though I can hear differences between WMA and the other two). I’d still like to see Apple support it, however. I must be one of, say, six people.

  6. FUD. It’s one of MS’s oldest tricks in the book.

    Vista marketing = “Maybe I should wait before buying an Apple, Vista is right around the corner,and its just the same as what Apple has.”

    iPod killer announcement = “Maybe I should wait before buying an iPod, MS says their just about to come out with something thats the same thing.”

  7. Well, about Mr Thurrot’s 2004 statements, i just can say that every human can be wrong. Not that he is not human, but he won’t make a living as a fortune teller (or market analyst, which is some specialization of the clairvoyants art).

    I don’t know what happens with Mr Thurrot. Perhaps he is starting to think rationally or he is just trying to create opinion and exercise some influence (over who?).

    About opening to WMA or other formats, i don’t think “It ain’t going to happen”…for now. Perhaps if the situation goes very dark for Apple (and i doubt it), then it could happen. All depends on the priority the Cupertino Company wants to assign to the music business (in which, until now, Apple is doing well).

    Everything can change depending on circumstances. Business is business. Intel switch anyone?

  8. MDN: Apple will allow WMA on iPod or license FairPlay to other services if or when they need to do so.

    And since they won’t do so, I will never buy from iTMS. That being said, I won’t buy from other download services.

    Apple is using its DRM and the DMCA to build a lock on the entertainment world.

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