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Microsoft “aims to topple Apple” for digital tunes

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By Dennis Lloyd

Publisher, iLounge
Published: Monday, December 29, 2003
News Categories: Digital Media

“‘This will be the year downloadable music ... goes legitimate,’ says Dave Fester, general manager of Microsoft’s digital media division.

Those jumping on board the digital music bandwagon can thank Apple Computer for getting it rolling. Apple opened its iTunes online music store in April and was the first to let patrons download individual songs for 99 cents, without having to commit to a subscription service.

The software giant aims to topple Apple as the early market leader by spurring the growth of a cross section of digital music suppliers and device makers all using the Windows Media format, it says.

‘The best part about Windows Media is that it unlocks choice,’ Microsoft’s Fester says. “You can buy from the store or use the device that gives you the best experience.”“

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Comments

1

But . . . what’s the point of choice . . . if . . . you can’t . . . choose both?

Fester’s claim that WMA opens up choice to the user is backward. He says you can choose to either buy from Microsoft’s online music store or use the device that gives you the best experience . . . the iPod, I think he means.

But, if you can’t buy from Microsoft’s store and put your purchased tunes on your iPod, what’s the point? Why not buy from Apple’s store?

Posted by Ben on December 29, 2003 at 9:55 AM (PDT)

2

Micro$oft is trying to dominate another market….I don’t think its gonna work this time.  iPod is clearly the leader in mp3 player sales and the mini-ipod to be released real soon will only help drive Apple’s sales further.  What choice is there to have then?  I strongly doubt that any of the players supporting WMA format will surpass iPod any time soon.

Posted by Jon on December 29, 2003 at 10:11 AM (PDT)

3

cant they let apple be sell better with something?

Posted by iPodMaster on December 29, 2003 at 10:27 AM (PDT)

4

Despite the lies that M$ has been telling the masses about how 64k WMA is comparable to 128k MP3, the truth is, WMA is an extremely low quality, lossy format, that can’t outperform MP3 even when its at 128k. The trick is to decrease the noisier frequencies like 1k by a few decibels.

Either way, WMA is a terrible format to distribute music in, much worse than the AAC(MP4) format that Apple uses.

Posted by Sraphim on December 29, 2003 at 10:45 AM (PDT)

5

This is one war I hope Microshaft loses. . .

Posted by jammity jam jam on December 29, 2003 at 10:57 AM (PDT)

6

HA HA HA HA HA! When will Micro$oft wake up and realize that they are fighting a losing battle if they continue to maintain that people are interested in a closed format such as WMA.

Posted by mGee on December 29, 2003 at 11:31 AM (PDT)

7

If Microsoft really believed in “choice”, their media player would support AAC.

Posted by cmm on December 29, 2003 at 11:40 AM (PDT)

8

First, mcGee, WMA is as closed as a format as AAC is.  There is only one true open format which is Ogg Vorbis.  Get your fact straight.

Second, sraphim, you describe WMA as a lossy format as if MP3 and AAC are not?  For what it’s worth, both AAC and WMA are next generation codecs that sound much better than MP3.  There is no debate about that.  Whether or not AAC sound better than WMA, that is purely subjective.

Posted by Ken on December 29, 2003 at 11:49 AM (PDT)

9

‘“‘This will be the year downloadable music ... goes legitimate,’ says Dave Fester, general manager of Microsoft’s digital media division.’

Perhaps he hasn’t noticed, but downloadable music is already legitimate, thanks in no small part to Apple.  It’s just typical Microsoft arrogance that they won’t recognize the legitimacy of something until they get their claws into it.

At the same time, I hope they don’t topple Apple, neither do I hope them to be a miserable failure.  Competition is good for consumers, so best of luck to Microsoft as long as they don’t try to take too much of the pie for themselves.

Posted by Mountain Man on December 29, 2003 at 12:31 PM (PDT)

10

Some of you are hilarious.  You chastise Microsoft for having a closed format when Apple is doing the exact same thing, but on a bigger scale with AAC.  Look at all of the MP3 players available that play WMA files compared to the one that plays AAC files.  The iPod is great.  I love mine, but no way am I going to invest in music that will only play on products sold by Apple.  Who knows what the best mp3 player will be a year from now?

Apple needs to open up and start allowing other companies to use AAC and they also need to put WMA support in the iPod instead of once again using a closed, proprietary system like they have used in the PC market to get their whopping 5% market share.

Posted by wickerbill on December 29, 2003 at 12:49 PM (PDT)

11

Only the facts Ma’am :  AAC and WMA by themselves DO NOT restrict usage and they are both lossy formats.  DRM wrapped around AAC & WMA does the restricting.  I can use Nero on my PC to burn non-restricted AAC’s and WMA’s.  AAC is not and Apple format, so they dont have the rights to allow someone elses to use it.  WMA is Microsofts format.  All this talk about one format being better than the other is all hearsay and personal preference until someone actually comes up with an emperical way to compare them.  If you think one is better than the other than go for it, but dont waste our time schilling for your favorite companies compression format when theres no way to fairly compare them.

Posted by Jim on December 29, 2003 at 1:16 PM (PDT)

12

“First, mcGee, WMA is as closed as a format as AAC is. There is only one true open format which is Ogg Vorbis. Get your fact straight. “

Ken….

mcGee?? There’s no C in my screen name, get it straight.

Who said anything against Ogg Vorbis? Anyway, I understand that AAC is as closed, but the quality is better, allowing for me to burn to disc and rip to mp3 if I purchase from itunes music store. That’s a BIG if anyway….apple doesn’t have it right either….still too expensive.

But microsoft definitely doesn’t have it right.

You should chill a bit though, I’m not really sure why you were so defensive about my comment.

Posted by mGee on December 29, 2003 at 1:25 PM (PDT)

13

what do you mean too expensive? they are about as cheap as possible? if they lower the price anymore, they will lose $$.

Posted by iPodMaster on December 29, 2003 at 1:44 PM (PDT)

14

They’re too expensive because you are getting quite a bit less of a product than a CD, but the price isn’t really that much cheaper.  Whether they make money doesn’t mean crap to the consumer. (BTW, they’re losing money even charging what they are now)  The consumer has to decide if the product is worth the money that the company is asking for it.  I, along with many others, feel that the iTunes music store needs to lower their prices before I will consider buying my music there.  Obviously some people feel that it’s a good value because they’re selling songs, but I will take a real CD with cover art, MUCH better quality, and no DRM restrictions for only a few dollars more over a $9.99 album at the iTunes music store.

Posted by wickerbill on December 29, 2003 at 2:28 PM (PDT)

15

Microsoft won’t lose.  They never do.

I prefer MP3 because I know that whatever player I purchase, it will or more likely than not, support MP3.  They don’t all support WMA or AAC.  Those two are too proprietary.  Everybody supports MP3, though.

The best choice is to have the original song on CD uncompressed.  But for a compressed tune, MP3 at one of the highest bit qualities is the only way to go, IMO.

My preference is high VBR MP3’s, Ipod, and Anapod software.  I don’t know where to buy my music online yet, but it won’t be at the iTunes music store.

Posted by Z on December 29, 2003 at 2:36 PM (PDT)

16

The Leader is always the underdog..
Apple did it first.
No one will match an ipod.
Everyone copies Apple..
I like 128 AAC.I LOVE my ipod..

I have 300 cds from the past..

Posted by mangoman on December 29, 2003 at 2:50 PM (PDT)

17

I will never buy music online unless I can get the full quality, uncompressed .wav files, so until that happens, I’ll stick to ripping my own MP3’s from CD.

Posted by Mountain Man on December 29, 2003 at 2:51 PM (PDT)

18

This debate has turned into which format is better over the other. I personally prefer MP3 due to its wide acceptability in practically every player—the whole product line is “MP3 Players.”

I think eventually a consumer will have the option of choosing his preferred format.  I like the idea of loss-less WAV files being distributed, but its not practical as of yet due to the capacities of the average users hard drive and the fact that only 30% of US residents have broad-band.

The simple truth is that online stores can’t distribute MP3s because users will turn around and put them on P2P applications.  I don’t think we’ll see MP3s being distributed until a company devises a fail-proof way of making protected MP3s.

As Mountain Man said, competition is what forces companies to strive for better—to out-beat their competitor and to get your 99 cents.  Microsoft has a right to enter this battle.  I’m not “rooting” for either competent because I’m sure it will end out with a great product/service no matter who is on top.  And I hope that that top isnt so menacing as it has been in the past that any chance of viable competition is choked out. 

It’s good to have product and brand loyalty, but it’s foolish to continue that loyalty when something outside of that zealot-ism is superior.

The end.

Posted by dethbrakr in Tacoma, WA on December 29, 2003 at 3:22 PM (PDT)

19

Apple may lead for now, but Microsoft will be the leader in the long run simply because they have control over the operating system, browser and media player.

My bet is that they will incorporate their store into Windows Media Player just as Apple did with iTunes. WiMP however is installed on pretty much every single recent copy of Windows. They will probably incorporate it into a Windows Media Player 10, and Microsoft always trys to get users to update their copies of Media Player.

I have feeling more people will end up using it simply because “it is already on their machine,” and is not an extra step to get another program. If downloadable music is to go mainstream, users need to be able to access it easily, and Microsoft is sure to make it as easy as possible. I can’t believe the number of people who use Windows Media Player to play music simply because it is already installed and don’t know any better to get something else.

The people who know what they are doing obviously will go with the better choice (iTunes), but the majority of people in the future most likely will not want to have to download new software.

Posted by Jon in Seattle, WA on December 29, 2003 at 4:03 PM (PDT)

20

Well, the raw format on CDs is AIFF so that’s what I would prefer, not WAV files. I agree though that the current prices for M4A downloads is far too high for what you get. You pay nearly the same price as you did for CD and you get low quality files with no packaging. I mean, the least Apple could do is allow you to download a PDF of the cover art when you buy an album. I’ll not be buying any online music until I can get raw AIFFs priced reasonably.

Posted by Surf Monkey on December 29, 2003 at 4:12 PM (PDT)

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