Microsoft Corp. is planning to have a portable music and video player out by Christmas in a challenge to Apple Computer Inc.’s iPod.
The digital player will have a wireless Internet connection, enabling users to download music without being linked to a computer, a feature the iPod doesn’t offer, according to people briefed on Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft’s plans.
Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, is seeking to take share from Apple’s iPod, which commands 77 percent of the $4 billion U.S. market for digital music players, based on figures from market researcher NPD Group Inc. Apple’s iTunes music store is used for 72 percent of music downloads. Microsoft has spent the past six years relying on partners to make players that use its software.
“None of Microsoft’s partners are doing the job that needs to be done,”‘ said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research in New York. “Apple has set it up so Apple music flows only to Apple devices. It locks Microsoft out and gives Apple more of a hold.”
Microsoft hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson, who is among Microsoft officials who have met with music and Hollywood companies to seek licenses for their content, according to industry officials with knowledge of the plans. J Allard, 37, a Microsoft Xbox vice president, is overseeing the development of the device, the people said.
There’s more by following the link, but this seems to be the same rumor as the one in June, only with more details. Once again, the important part is that Microsoft is apparently doing this themselves like the Xbox instead of “enabling” partners like the Personal Media Center and unsurprisingly has the Xbox crew in charge. I still wonder about the PMC partners left high and dry, though. One further observation: while the iPod lacks a wireless connection, the feature isn’t new to the space since MusicGremlin just rolled out a personal audio player with Wi-Fi Internet support as its primary virtue.