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Backstage: Microsoft’s big, quiet music plans?

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Saturday, June 11, 2005
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Is it plausible? If it was coming from someone we didn’t know, we would have a harder time believing it. But a well-connected iLounge reader reports that a huge order - in the millions “per month” - has just been placed by Microsoft with a leading Chinese manufacturer of headphones.

Given Microsoft’s varied business ventures, the order could conceivably be for anything from Xbox 360 accessories to pack-ins for a new MP3 player - or both, as we’d heard separate and not entirely accurate rumblings about months ago. But the reality is that the company sells very few hardware products under its own name, and far fewer still that would demand millions of headphones per month. We’d doubt, for example, that it expects to sell multiple millions of the optional Xbox 360 Headset for online gaming right away. But perhaps it does.

Or perhaps Microsoft’s making plans for a bigger push into the digital music market? As Engadget noted yesterday, the company’s apparently looking into sneaky ways to endgame the iTunes Music Store with Windows Media-compatible audio files. Of course, for that plan to work, it would help if millions of people actually owned devices compatible with Windows Media songs. A Microsoft-branded product might be easier for the company to control and sell than the jumble of disparate “Plays For Sure” offerings everyone else is offering right now. What do you think?

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Comments

1

Well, I personally have no idea what they could need “millions of headphones per month” for. Millions over a year or longer, maybe, but multiple millions, as in two or three or more million every months? I can’t imagine what that could be for unless they are going to bundle headphones with every Windows liscensed machine in some sort of bizarre promotion. Windows is about the only thing that Microsoft puts out in that sort of volume. Even the iPod only pushes about 1.5 million a month, which only just barely qualifies as millions. I think Microsoft is being overly optimistic if they think they can sell anything in more volume than the market leader with 3/4 market share.

Posted by Zac on June 11, 2005 at 6:51 PM (PDT)

2

It’ll crash and burn - just like every other WMA - “Plays for sure” - attempt. iTMS has an 81% market share - iPod has a 76% market share - and that number isn’t going down any time soon.

Posted by mongoos150 in Tucson, AZ on June 12, 2005 at 8:42 AM (PDT)

3

Here in Chicago, MSN has been running a very prominent campaign for music. Honestly, I haven’t looked up long enough from my iPod to study the ads in depth, but they say something to the effect of buy 1 get 4 or 5 songs free. it also has a tag line about taking it with you. With Microsoft it could be completely unrelated, or the beginings of a tighly integrated campaign.

Posted by brock on June 12, 2005 at 11:16 AM (PDT)

4

Interesting if true! My guess: they have service like Skype, which they will bundle with MSN, offer for free, give out free hardphone/mike for signing up, and as well start supplying headphone/mike free with every Windows Validation starting in fall (fine print: you must install MSN to use headphone). Just made ALL that up, but ....

Posted by cybercoach on June 12, 2005 at 11:56 AM (PDT)

5

I bet they’re for xbox live for the 360.

Posted by John Holaday on June 12, 2005 at 8:33 PM (PDT)

6

they are probably for the rumored removable HD/MP3 player that will be attached to the XBOX 360.

Posted by babooba on June 13, 2005 at 12:00 AM (PDT)

7

I really doubt it is a “iPod Killer”, because as of late Microsoft has been somewhat embracing of technology from or related to Apple, whether it be using the G5s in the Xbox 360, or the use of PowerMacs at the E3 booths, as well as the integration of an iPod friendly feature in the new Xbox.

More than likely it is merely for the Xbox360. It’s hard to believe millions could be sold, but remember that next to America, Xbox is big in China as well, and they havve over 22 bilion peeps in that country. So it kinda makes sense in the end.

Posted by Daniel DeVaney on June 13, 2005 at 1:38 AM (PDT)

8

Sorry, I meant 2 billion people, not 22.

Posted by Daniel DeVaney on June 13, 2005 at 1:39 AM (PDT)

9

The X-Box sold 20 million in 4 years for a sales rate of less than 1/2 million per month so you can forget that connection. Even Sony only managed 1.5 million per month with the PS2. The iPod is now selling faster than that.

Posted by DustyMac on June 13, 2005 at 6:56 AM (PDT)

10

So…We’re all assuminig the initial report/rumor was accurate to begin with.  I think they’re for the 360; the timing is about right for production and pre-packaging.

Posted by iboon on June 24, 2005 at 10:18 AM (PDT)

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