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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

July 10, 2006 at 10:32 AM

The Xpod column

Good feedback so far on today’s column, including a note from someone at Microsoft who thanked me for the commentary that touched on some of the big problems is company is having.

I also heard from guy with a Mac.com email address who said he’s tired of all the cozy puff pieces about Microsoft in the Seattle papers.

It might have disrupted that balance, but if I’d had more room in the column I would have added more background details on how an MP3 player would complement the Xbox 360 accessory line. I might also have mentioned that the Xbox group signaled its leanings at the 360 launch by playing up the console’s compatibility with the iPod and other non-Microsoft devices.

But like I said in the column, the story is about much more than just the device. Everybody and their cousin is rumored to be developing iPod challengers now, including Amazon.com and RealNetworks.

The devices get lots of ink now, but I wonder if we’ll soon be paying more attention to the services and the overall media experience that a portable player, desktop player and online storefront provide. Apple’s iTunes is my favorite desktop player and it has tons of great features, but it seems kind of dated.

Software media players in general have a database/techie feel that’s great for enthusiasts who like to sort and organize their music. But these controls are intimidating to people who aren’t as comfortable with computers and expect the simplicity of a home stereo system. Could that be limiting mainstream users’ transition to digital music?

Speaking of limiting, I wonder if antitrust restrictions on Windows Media Player are another motivation for Microsoft to develop a digital media suite with a different brand. Regulators in Europe and Korea have ordered the company to sell versions of Windows without a bundled media player.

I wonder if those regulators would allow Microsoft to bundle an Xbox-branded player with new PCs – not as part of Windows, but as a third-party software product added at the discretion of PC makers.

Comments | More in | Topics: Zune

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