The closest thing so far to a “Microsoft iPod” is the iRiver Clix, a portable media player that Microsoft helped develop over the past six months. I look at that relationship in today’s column.
I first learned about the Clix project by reading the blog of Sean Alexander, a former Microsoft PR guy who now works on the Windows team handling digital media projects. He told part of the Clix story on the blog, but Microsoft’s involvement and the significance of the partnership seems much deeper than he let on.
One thing that’s missing from the column is more perspective from iRiver’s U.S. headquarters down the road in Vancouver, Wash. I tried contacting the president there, but we didn’t connect before deadline. Alexander told me that the proximity to Vancouver wasn’t a big factor, though, because Microsoft was working a lot with iRiver engineers in Korea.
Alexander said they used the same kind of scrum development approach that Microsoft uses for its own projects — every day the team would meet and go over progress and identify bugs and issues for the engineers to address in the next build. The approach worked — they finished the device in six months, just in time for the Windows Media Player 11 beta launch last month.
The column isn’t a review of the Clix, though perhaps I ought to do that sometime. Cnet and PC World have gushed over the device, and I imagine Microsoft has already sent one to Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal.
First, I’m going to see just how intuitive the tilt-screen interface is, by hooking the Clix up to my daughter’s Hello Kitty boombox and seeing if the first-grade set can figure it out.