Microsoft's iPod Killer?

In the last week there has been talk of Microsoft making their own MP3 Player to combat the iPod. I’m actually really looking forward to what they come up with. Mainly because I’m getting sick of iTunes and the iPod. Let me explain.

I Love the iTunes program itself. It’s very easy and slick to use. I’ve even bought several hundred dollars worth of music from the store. But that was when Hymn allowed me to crack the encryption. I would remove the encryption and make it so I could listen to the songs anywhere I wanted… Across a network, on the XBox 360 etc. It was basically like burning the songs to CD and then re-ripping them back to MP3, only with less audio degradation.

I did this because I believe that if I buy music it’s MINE, and I have the right to play it anywhere I want. I’m not sharing it on P2P networks, I’m not giving it away to anyone, I’m simply listening to it. I want to be able to listen on my computers, in my car, on my digital audio player (and ANY digital audio player for that matter) etc.

Now when it comes to subscription services like Yahoo Music Unlimited, I expect restrictions. In those services I am simply paying a monthly subscription fee to a service. I’m okay with them restricting what I do with the music, because frankly, I don’t own it. There are tons of services out there, but none of them work on an iPod. Also, Apple doesn’t have it’s OWN subscription service.

So, if you own an iPod, you can listen to your own ripped music, or you can buy stuff from the Apple iTunes store. That. Is. It. You can’t listen to music bought from any other store, nor can you listen to subscription tracks from any other store. You are basically locked in. And oh, by the way, all the protected songs you buy at the iTunes store can only be listened to on one of several computers or iPods you authorize to do so.

So, if you have a home network, and have an XBox 360, or a TiVo, or a Roku, or any of the other cool home-audio distribution tools, you cannot listen to the music you BOUGHT at the iTunes store.

Contrast that to the whole PlaysForSure mentality of Microsoft. They are licensing their tech to everyone. You have multiple services to choose from, tons of vendors to choose from for hardware and subscription services, the ability to work with tons of home-audio tech. Yet still, the iPod reigns supreme. I guess I don’t get it.

The iPod is a great design, I’ll give Apple that. All of the other vendors have yet to come up with something compelling as a competitor. Even though the Creative Zen Vision simply blows away the iPod with Video (bigger screen, better resolution, subscription music compatible, FM radio receiver, voice recorder) Anyway, hopefully, Microsoft entering the market will really push the issue.

Now the next rumor, if true, is the best weapon Microsoft has in its arsenal. It’s from the Engadget article referenced above:

But it gets better. To attract current iPod users Microsoft is going to let you download for free any songs you’ve already bought from the iTunes Music Store. They’ll actually scan iTunes for purchased tracks and then automatically add those to your account. Microsoft will still have to pay the rights-holders for the songs, but they believe it’ll be worth it to acquire converts to their new player.

So, if you felt locked into Apple simply because you spent $500 on music that you can’t play anywhere else, Microsoft is going to let you download that in their system, and at that point, it opens that music up to hundreds of devices. This will cost MS a lot of money, but it destroys the main barrier most people will have. It’s brilliant, and I hope it’s true.

If it is (and maybe even if it isn’t) I’ll be the first in line to pick up a new MS digital audio player. How about you?