September 2, 2004 2:41 PM PDT

MSN Music is off-key, Apple says

Apple Computer is making catcalls over Microsoft's musical talents.

The creator of the trendsetting iPod music player and iTunes music service on Thursday took its on-again-off-again rival to task for the new MSN Music download service, saying it has fewer features and fewer songs than the market-leading iTunes.

"Its biggest problem may be that its downloaded songs can not play on the iPod," said Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of applications.

Apple has a strong, early lead, having been in the business for more than a year, having sold more than 125 million songs and having established a dominant share of the player market with its iPod.

But Microsoft may have some advantages, in addition to its sheer mass.

Where Apple has concentrated on music, Microsoft is giving nearly equal weight to video. The Redmond, Wash., software giant is pushing a new category of devices, dubbed Portable Media Centers, that play TV shows and video in addition to songs. The products, which use Microsoft technology, are sold by consumer electronics firms such as Samsung and Creative Technology.

And while Apple has taken an exclusively sales-oriented approach, Microsoft has also developed technology that allows people to "rent" music through a subscription service. However, the MSN Music store, which opened Wednesday, only matches Apple on the typical price per song, at 99 cents.

Executives at Apple continue to downplay the importance of both music subscriptions and portable video. "The video market isn't really something that customers have shown an affinity to," said Greg Joswiak, vice president of hardware marketing at the Cupertino, Calif., company.

Pointing to the past generation of devices, Joswiak noted that Sony has sold 200 million of its Walkman music players and not very many "Watchman" portable TVs.

Both Apple and Microsoft have been dialing up the rhetoric. In an interview this week with BusinessWeek magazine, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates rejected the notion promoted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs that portable video isn't important.

"Ask kids in the back of a car on a two-hour trip, 'Hey, would you like to have your videos there?' My kids would," Gates said. "I guess Steve's kids just listen to Bach and Mozart. But mine, they want to watch 'Finding Nemo.' I don't know who made that, but it's really a neat movie."

In that interview, Gates stressed that Microsoft's approach is to offer a variety of music services and digital players, but noted there is probably room in the market for both Apple- and Microsoft-based products.

Apple focused much of its attack Thursday on the MSN Music store, rather than Microsoft's overall approach.

"The iTunes Music Store is currently selling over 16 million songs per month (a rate of 200 million songs per year)," the company said in a statement. "How many songs will Microsoft's new online music store sell during its first month?"

While it's debatable whether the MSN Music store can single-handedly dethrone Apple in the near term, the bigger question is whether Apple will be able to maintain its current lead--claiming 70 percent of legal music downloads and roughly half of the U.S. digital music player business.

"Our job of course is to continue to make that so," Joswiak said.

Joswiak noted that the company is not standing still, having added to the iPod lineup with the mini version and reaching partnerships with Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and BMW.

Apple plans next month to expand its music store from a few European countries to the rest of the continent and sees opportunities beyond that.

"The wonderful thing is that everyone on the planet likes some kind of music," Cue said. "There is a huge opportunity (to sell music) in every country, including developing markets."

Cue said that, at least so far, Microsoft's strategy of enabling many partners and trying to create a larger ecosystem hasn't worked. "It kind of put them in a position of having to open" their own store, Cue said.

As for the fact that songs bought at MSN Music don't play on the iPod, Microsoft places the blame on Apple.

"We're sorry that this isn't easier--unfortunately Apple refuses to allow other companies to integrate with the iPod's proprietary music format," Microsoft states on its site. "If you are an iPod owner already and unhappy about this policy, you are welcome to send feedback to Apple requesting that they change their interoperability policy."

On the site, Microsoft also outlines a rather cumbersome workaround that entails burning a purchased song onto a CD and then using iTunes to rip the song from the CD into an iPod-compatible format.

25 comments

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Whose really going to have the problem?
"It's biggest problem may be that its downloaded songs can not play on the iPod," said Eddie Cue, Apple's vice president of applications.

Well "duuuh!"

I'm not going to buy an ipod because it doesn't support mp3pro and has extremely limited ways of track selection.

I need something with a full version of Musicmatch so I can make and mix quick genre, mood, situation etc. selctions without having to scoll down a tiny wee screen and pick tracks one at a time. Imagine going through 4 or 5 thousand songs like that . Daft.

When Apple pull their heads out of the sand they may realise that PCs are pretty well established and it's unlikely we'll all jump ship and embrace Apple.

Apple need to make their stuff more compliant not the other way around.
Posted by webewitch (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Have you actually used an iPod?
You most certainly can browse by genre, mood, etc. It was there
from day one. You most certainly don not have to select songs
one by one out of thousands.

You can also create "smart" playlists that are automatically
updated every time you add info (BPM, mood, etc.). True, you
have to do it in iTunes, but 9 times out of ten, I do not want to
fiddle with my player - i just select a playlist and go.

And that's why the iTunes and iPod integration is so important
and cool. Whatever I do in iTunes gets synched to the iPod, as if
I would be carrying my computer in my pocket.

As per you mp3pro comment - mp3pro only has a demo player
available, so why do you base your judgment on a file-format-
in-development? How many WMA based players support
MP3Pro? Just one that I know of: the RCA lyra player line.

The iPod is plenty compliant - it plays mp3s, WAV, AIFF and AAC
files. All based on open standards. The protected files are the
only ones that only play inside iTunes and the iPod. But I ask you
this: do protected WMA files play outside of WMP and an WMA
audio player? No.

Nobody is asking you to "jump ship". Buy an iPod and it works
just fine with windows. You are still on your hole ridden ship.
Posted by zarathustra911 (35 comments )
Link Flag
Er... you not of what you speak
Perhaps you should use iTunes and an iPod for more than 2 minutes before you speak. Your post clearly shows that you don't know what you are talking about.

"so I can make and mix quick genre, mood, situation etc. selctions without having to scoll down a tiny wee screen and pick tracks one at a time. Imagine going through 4 or 5 thousand songs like that . Daft."

Only someone that was daft would use an iPod that way. You have virtually limitless ways of organizing and playing your songs. Both with fixed playlists as well as ones that are dynamic (or by selecting tracks individually if that is what you want to do). For example, creating a play list that will play all your top rated tracks that you haven't listened to recently takes only a few seconds.
Posted by (12 comments )
Link Flag
Not just Apple needs to change
I agree in part that Apple needs to open up and accept other formats. They should also allow other company's players to use the Apple format. Heck, that way I could own a Sony player and buy my music from Apple if I wished. But online music services like Apple and MSN should offer their music in more than 1 format for downloading. That would solve lots of problems and make for some very happy customers!
Posted by (1 comment )
Link Flag
Apple is soiling htemselves
Paleeeez!!!

"It's biggest problem may be that its downloaded songs can not play on the iPod," said Eddie Cue, Apple's vice president of applications."

So should everyone use an iPod??? There are hundreds of other alternatives. Besides, the iPod isn't so complete itself. Pot, you're black.

Go cry to someone who gives a crap. You aren't the only show in town now.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Choose what works for you
No... not everyone should buy an iPod. You should choose a player that fits your needs and pocket book. That's one good thing about living in a democracy, you have options.

The iPod has never been the sole player in the field. As a matter of fact, Apple is a late comer to the whole portable music industry.
Posted by vanox (49 comments )
Link Flag
If you think you smell something...
....better check your own pants. You're so full of it that some
must have leaked by now.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
MSN Store = Closed & Proprietary!
I don't think Microsoft is going to knock the bottom out Apple's
success so quickly. For one thing, they already have made a
mistake; they only offer their service to a select group of
computer users, which is a 'closed' system business model.
Apple at least acknowledges that there is more than a single
computer platform and supports Mac, Windows and Linux (via
CodeWeavers). The only true 'open' online music store is
AudioLunchbox, which no matter if you're using Windows, Mac,
Linux, Amiga and etc... you can buy and download music off
their site without a hitch (No computer user discriminated
against).

I can imagine that Microsoft will eventually win this online music
download war because of plain and simple ignorance rather than
anything else.

The 'cult' of Windows will always prevail because those folks
follow and worship whatever has "Microsoft" stamped on it!
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The market share of Mac is very limted ...
actually, extremely limited. Why would Microsoft care about Mac users? ... not enough reason to support your rivals' platform ... I use both Macs and PCs ... no prejudice here but the Mac fanatics have to admit ... Apple is a very narrow-minded company ... never understood why the UI of iPod is so crippled ... the Creative Zens are so much better!
Posted by sdai (8 comments )
Link Flag
Reply
"For one thing, they already have made a
mistake; they only offer their service to a select group of computer users, which is a 'closed' system business model."

iTunes and the iPod originally started out as Mac only.


"Apple at least acknowledges that there is more than a single computer platform and supports Mac, Windows and Linux (via CodeWeavers)."

Microsoft has acknowledged there are other platforms or have you forgotten they make Mac version of IE and Office etc. Apple hasn't really acknowledge Linux, at least not in terms of software written for Linux (neither has Microsoft). There software has to be run in emulation on Linux.


"The 'cult' of Windows will always prevail because those folks follow and worship whatever has "Microsoft" stamped on it!"

Apple has a cult of their own. Apple's cult does the same thing, they worship whatever has Apple's name attached to it.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
works with other platforms!
Hey, msn Music works fine with other platforms because it can be accessed from a web browser!
Posted by mikeg4936 (31 comments )
Link Flag
the unknown reply
..."Microsoft has acknowledged there are other platforms or have
you forgotten they make Mac version of IE and Office etc. Apple
hasn't really acknowledge Linux, at least not in terms of
software written for Linux (neither has Microsoft). There
software has to be run in emulation on Linux."...

If you didn't already know, Microsoft Office was born on the
Macintosh long ago, then it made its way to Windows. IE was
only brought over to Mac due to the Apple-Microsoft Alliance
formed in the late '90s and was eventually replaced by Safari as
the default web browser for Mac.

CodeWeavers does not use emulation, but rather they reversed
engineered Win32 APIs so that Windows applications can run on
Linux without any sort of emulator.

Every computer platform has some sort of 'cult' following.
Posted by JuggerNaut (860 comments )
Reply Link Flag
reply
"If you didn't already know, Microsoft Office was born on the
Macintosh long ago, then it made its way to Windows. IE was
only brought over to Mac due to the Apple-Microsoft Alliance
formed in the late '90s and was eventually replaced by Safari as
the default web browser for Mac."

As I said in my reply to your original post Microsoft has acknowledge other platforms. Which was my reply to your statement that "Apple at least acknowledges that there is more than a single
computer platform and supports Mac, Windows"


"CodeWeavers does not use emulation, but rather they reversed
engineered Win32 APIs so that Windows applications can run on
Linux without any sort of emulator."

I am aware of that. I used the emulation for the lack of a better term.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
 

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