The glitch in the master plan
For the first time I am convinced that Apple should be worried about their dominance in the digital music industry. The combination of Microsoft's Windows Media Player 11 and MTV URGE music store is very good. These two technologies look set to win.
But, there is a glitch to this master plan.
Apple's success is built on top of three, interconnected technologies: iTunes Music Store, iTunes, and the iPod. The final piece to the triple threat is the device that plays back the music and, kudos has to go to Apple. The iPod is a brilliantly elegant solution. The success of the device can be seen in sales in places such as Japan where the iPod has been the most popular music player for years, but the Japanese have only just got the iTunes Music Store, which means that people were buying the iPod just to play their own MP3 music collection.
To attack the iPod Microsoft has created the licensed technology called "Plays for Sure" that any music player manufacturer can license. (iRiver is one of the better known companies to have licensed this technology.)
The challenge that competitors are being faced with is that the iPod has become lodged into our cultural consciousness as the only music player that matters. This is supported by the many thousands of add-on features available for the iPod and the near zealous affection people have with the device. To take on the much-loved iPod is becoming a Herculean task.
Still, rumors are running around the Internet that Microsoft's XBOX group are coming up with an iPod killer device to round out their technologies. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.