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Microsoft Prepares "iPod Killer"

Microsoft Prepares "iPod Killer"

by , 9:00 AM EST, March 18th, 2004

Watch out Apple, here comes Microsoft. CNN is reporting that Microsoft is preparing an "iPod Killer" to be released later this year. These units will be larger and heavier than the iPod, but will have a larger, color screen and play videos and display photos, in addition to playing back MP3 and WMA files. From CNN:

The first handheld gadgets to play music and movies on Microsoft Corp.'s "iPod killer" software will be available in Europe in the second half of 2004, the world's largest software company said on Thursday.

The gadgets will run on Microsoft's yet-to-be-unveiled Portable Media Center software in a direct assault on iPod, Apple Computer Inc.'s hot-selling digital music player.

[...]

The devices play MP3 files as well as audio and video content recorded in Microsoft's digital format. The devices run on the Windows CE operating system.

The Creative player weighs in at 330 grams (11.5 ounces) -- roughly three times as thick as an iPod and roughly twice as long to accommodate its television-quality colour screen. It has a USB port and comes with audio and video outputs cable to play media on a television or stereo hi-fi.

CNN also quoted Mark Mulligan of Jupiter Research, who dismissed these devices, saying "By definition, they just don't have widespread appeal." There's more information in the full article at CNN.

The Mac Observer Spin:

A portable photo player is a great idea. Who doesn't like to show photos to the people in their lives? (Please note the stark difference between "Who doesn't like to see photos?" and "Who doesn't like to show photos?"). Men keep their kids, wives, and girlfriends in their wallets. Parents maintain entire photo albums, and now get their photos printed up in books courtesy of iPhoto. Most anyone with a desk has pictures of their family or friends on the desk. In Japan, school kids stick photos from the ubiquitous photo booths that dot the landscape in and on their phones (if it's on the inside, underneath the battery, it's a secret crush or secret girlfriend/boyfriend.) Now, of course, people are beginning to carry digital pics in their phones, often pics taken by the phones themselves.

Why, pictures are everywhere.

Pictures on your MP3 player, though? Maybe.

The reality is, however, that the real change in carrying around pictures is probably going to take a device much smaller, and likely much different, from the iPod's form factor. Think of something like a small LEP screen (a display that is printed on paper), with a very, very small device that can store images. Likely, such a device would become the most successful when it fit inside a wallet or women's billfold. The more things change, after all, the more they stay the same.

Still, Microsoft could get at least some customers by offering a picture display. Even if users don't actually use it, they might purchase a device that offered that feature thinking they would use it.

So how about this video thing? From the moment people began conjecturing that Apple would release an iPod that plays movies, we've thought it a solution in search of a problem. Perhaps we are just old and set in our ways, but we don't want to squint at a tiny screen in order to watch a movie, or worse, a home movie ("Why in my day, movies were big, and you had to pay money to sit in a theater! You darned kids with your portable movies...").

This was our reaction to rumors of Apple releasing such a product; the idea of Microsoft making it work makes us even more skeptical.

Still, stranger things have happened. After all, there are hundreds of millions of people that willingly and happily use Windows each and every day. Perhaps those same people will want to watch movies on a fat iPod-like device, and lug said fat device around to show off pictures of their kids.

Don't write off Apple or the iPod yet, however; we still haven't seen whatever the next evolution of the iPod product line will be.

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