May 17, 2006 2:52 PM PDT

MTV, Microsoft a powerful combination, say some

As Microsoft continues to enjoy mostly favorable reviews of its new Windows Media Player 11 jukebox software, analysts say the real boost for the company's latest foray into music is a partnership with MTV Networks.

As expected, Microsoft officially rolled out a test version of Windows Media Player 11 for XP on Wednesday, two days after the free software could be found in a new digital music player and elsewhere on the Net.

WMP 11 is the latest of Microsoft's jukebox players. Built into the beta version of WMP 11 is Urge, the subscription digital music store also launched on Wednesday by MTV Networks. On Monday, iRiver released Clix, the company's latest digital music player and the first device to feature WMP 11. This is all part of a larger plan by Microsoft to challenge Apple Computer's iTunes music store and iPod digital music player.

While techies were busy offering Microsoft kudos for improving the WMP's interface, business analysts were counting all the ways Microsoft could benefit from MTV's marketing prowess.

"MTV has the kind of marketing muscle needed to compete with Apple," said Nitin Gupta, an analyst with The Yankee Group. "They have all their media properties, from TV to Internet. And they know how to sell music and music-related services."

Cutting into Apple's immense lead in the digital music business demands that Microsoft offer consumers more than just superior design and technology, say industry experts. Apple has illustrated an understanding of what kind of devices and services music fans want and how to attach social status to those devices. In other words, the company knows how to market to music fans.

An Apple representative declined to comment for this story.

Microsoft needed an injection of credibility with music fans. For a long time, some have depicted Microsoft as stodgier and more button down than Apple, its chief rival in the music sector. MTV and Microsoft announced their partnership last January, and insiders said then that MTV could help bridge any generation gap that exists between the software company and music buyers.

MTV's music service, along with Microsoft's software and WMP 11-enabled devices could be promoted to teenagers and young people on MTV shows such as "Spring Break 2006," "Date My Mom" or "Pimp My Ride," analysts said.

MTV's music expertise will also be a selling point as the network can help guide fans to top new performers. Urge offers a service that lets fans of a group such as U2 automatically receive updates on the band's most recent music as well as news about groups that produce similar work. Urge users can elect to receive Informer music blogs, written by experts in different genres. Each blog will come with a playlist so readers can simultaneously listen to or download the music they're reading about, MTV said in a statement.

"Urge distinguishes itself through handcrafted programming, innovative music discovery features and unique integration with Windows Media Player," said Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks Music.

Meanwhile, to use the beta version of Windows Media Player, Microsoft said, one must have Windows XP service pack 2 installed. Only a 233MHz processor and 64MB of memory are required, though a 1.5GHz machine with 512MB of memory is recommended. Microsoft's Vista operating system, due to be released next year, will come with a slightly different version of WMP 11, the company has said.

The relationship between Microsoft and MTV is not exclusive. Other music services, such as Napster and RealNetworks' Rhapsody.com, are able to plug in to WMP 11. MTV could also choose to take on additional technology partners.

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3 comments

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"The Incredibles" are on DVD. And this is 'Awsome' for everyone.
Be shure to engage the needed features in the Media Eleven subpanel to enjoy full value entertainment. Enjoy.
Posted by Stalin Hornsby (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's Pretty Good...
As an Apple Fanatic (ok.. at least I admit it).. and the owner of a
20 gig third generation ipod and an ipod nano...

After playing around with Urge in Virtual PC on my Mac, I must
say Urge is not bad at all. Actually it's the best subscription
based service there is now.. and it does a few things iTunes
doesn't do.

I don't really see Amazons upcoming offering as upseating
Apple, but I think that MTV and Microsofts new service have a
definite chance of given Apple a run for it's money.
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
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This Will Not Be Successful ...
unless it's not just dirt-easier to use than the iPod/iTunes system (an extremely high-synergy combination that is best done by a unified development team - precisely what Apple did long ago), but even easier, which is going to be a tall order. Given the historical intentional disconnect between Microsloth and its hardware partners, and the resulting myriad of glitches that continue through today, there is little evidence that this is going to be as seamless as Apple's system, much less significantly better.

Microsloth's old model of coming from behind over an extended period of time (Windoze wasn't really usable until 3.1, over five years after they had started work on Windoze 1.0 around 1983) isn't likely to work in the consumer music market. This is precisely because it's not only too late for Microsloth to hijack the majority of the market, but it doesn't have the highly cooperative leverage it did with business customers through their complicit IT departments, and executives who could mandate what would be bought from the top down, via typical slimy corporate "relationships" that are greased on golf courses, in country clubs, in fancy "steam 'n cream" establishments, and all of the other smoke-filled back rooms frequented by high-velocity/pressure business sales types exactly like Ballmer. After talking with Gates on a number of occasions and hearing him babble on at trade show keynote addresses, I'm thoroughly convinced that he has never been calling the shots outside the technical realm at Microsloth, and the company didn't start getting ugly until well after Ballmer arrived on the scene, following Gates from Harvard. It's always been Ballmer that has been the 800 pound gorilla at their internal and outside partner sales and marketing bashes - he is uniformly hated by a significant fraction of Microsloth employees, many of whom squarely blame him for the continuing slide in the value of their already insignificant fraction of stock options over the past half-dozen years. If you weren't one of the first few hundred employees there, you got there too late to make big money from stock options.

There are no IT departments or executives whom Microsloth can leverage through sweetheart deals, three-martooni lunches, and steam 'n cream sessions with "strategic partners", not to mention illegal, arm-and-kneecap-breaking, exclusivity-based corporate software sales licenses.

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
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