DRM-free AAC gives Apple boost against WMA

The announcement of DRM-free AAC tracks from the iTunes Store is the latest blow to Microsoft’s WMA format, Arik Hesseldahl writes for BusinessWeek. The move allows players other than the iPod, including devices from SanDisk, Creative, and Sharp, as well as the PSP and Zune, to play tracks purchased from the iTunes Store. Hesseldahl believes this chance for iTunes compatibility, along with bruised relationships from the PlaysForSure/Zune debacle, could lead to competing players adding AAC support while possibly dropping costly support for WMA.

In response to this possible market change, Hesseldahl suggests that many of the other online music stores, such as Napster, Yahoo! Music, and URGE, may follow suit and begin selling DRM-free AAC content as well, giving iTunes more direct competition — but also expanding the catalog of iPod-compatible music available online. This would lead to more iPod sales for Apple, and force Microsoft into a decision on whether or not to abandon WMA-based efforts entirely, Hesseldahl believes.

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