Microsoft's iPod Killer?

A few weeks ago, reported on Microsoft's iPod killer: a portable device that can handle both audio and video. The device is roughly twice as heavy, three times as thick and twice as long as an iPod though. "Killer"? I don't think so. Not only will it be too bulky to easily carry around with you, I also don't think portable video has anywhere near the potential of portable audio. Listening to music can be done while doing other things: you can code, drive or make love with music playing in the background (headphones not recommended for the latter two) while video takes your undivided attention. Try doing either of the above while watching TV and you'll end up with crappy code, a car crash and a divorce.

Today they reported on yet another Microsoft iPod killer though, and I think this one has more potential. It's copy-protection software that will allow for music rentals (as opposed to purchases) to work with portable digital music players. So instead of buying music for $0.99 per song, you'd pay something like $10.00 per month for unlimited downloads, with the caveat that those music files would only play for a limited amount of time. If you unsubscribe from the service, you'd lose all "your" music (which isn't really yours to begin with of course).

While I love my iPod, I think a service like this could be a winner IF combined with a service like For those unfamiliar with launch - this is a streaming music service that, unlike a regular radio station, will send you a personalized selection of music depending on your taste (or lack thereof). It does this by allowing you to rate songs, albums and artists, and then cross-referencing your ratings with those of other members. This way it can draw conclusions like "you've given high marks to Eminem and Dr.Dre, so you'll probably also like 2Pac and Snoop Dogg". This in turn allows you to discover new music - something a regular CD or mp3 player will be unable to do.

I personally would have little interest in subscribing to a rental service where I'd have to manually select the songs to download. I'd much rather buy 10 songs I really like than rent an unlimited number I still have to pick myself. Make it a dynamic download service though and combine it with dynamic playlists playing a combination of songs I own, songs I rated but don't own and songs others with similar taste than mine rated highly, and I'd become very interested indeed. I just hope Apple is working on something like this as well so that I'd be able to get it through a firmware update to my iPod, instead of having to buy a msftPod.

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"Try doing either of the above while watching TV and you'll end up with crappy code, a car crash and a divorce."

Well, with divorce it really does depend on the video.

Posted by Edwin Gore at April 2, 2004 6:44 PM

Combine your ideas with adding wi-fi to the iPod and you've got a real sweet package.

Imagine your iPod automatically downloading songs while you wait in line at your local starbucks...

Posted by Haacked at April 2, 2004 7:09 PM

Have you checked out iRate? From the site:
"iRATE radio is a collaborative filtering system for music. You rate the tracks it downloads and the server uses your ratings and other people's to guess what you'll like. The tracks are downloaded from websites which allow free and legal downloads of their music."

No, it's not nearly as extensive as the big pay services, but I've found it a great resource for finding new indie stuff.

Posted by StickyC at April 2, 2004 10:49 PM

The success of the MiniPod underlines how much size, style and good design matters in the portable area. Style and good design aren't exactly something MS and Creative are known for.

I also don't think people will be very comfortable with time-limited tracks. Unlike pay-per-view TV, people tend to listen to favorite songs many times, over a long time. Could still work if the marketing and implementation is good. does looks interesting, but Apple or anyone else could offer recommendations based on the tracks you buy or maybe even an analysis of your iTunes library (playcounts, last-played date etc).

Posted by Jan Sderback at April 3, 2004 2:15 AM

In this niche, I really have to say Apple "gets it" and MS certainly does not. Rent music? Really now, name me one friend, family member, acquaintence, hell... name me one enemy you know of who has told you how much they want to do that.

In a more tangible way, how do you sync up things between the msftPod and the central store? What happens when you unsubscribe? When the monthly payment gets lost in the mail? So, for US$10 a month what does one have after 4 years? $480 in someone else's pocket, and... ?

Posted by Dave at April 3, 2004 7:56 AM

Dave: ever go see a movie? pay $6 and what do you have after 2 hours?

IMO, this needs to be compared to subscribing to cable TV or satelite Radio. Your subscription fee is to enjoy the music during the period in which you are subscribed. The difference with a satelite Radio subscription is that now you get to hear a selection of songs specifically targeted towards your taste and you can skip songs, repeat songs, etc. In other words: you have much more freedom than you do with a "regular" radio show.

And if you like a song/album enough, nothing stops you from actually buying it of course, though this would only make sense if you plan to quit the service...

Posted by Luke Hutteman at April 3, 2004 12:54 PM

coping with ipodicide - product development, microsoft style
Luke Hutteman writes about Microsoft's new iPod. It's the typical old Microsoft strategy again. A big, more complicated application than the original....

Trackback from at April 3, 2004 3:36 PM

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the average LP in the US was only listened to 1.6 times (this was the eighties).

Posted by Antoin at April 3, 2004 4:55 PM

Microsoft IPod gyilkos?

Trackback from Egy semmibe vett ember blogja at April 6, 2004 4:27 AM

Maybe my version of a xbox killer interests you: (just ignore the german comments and read the quotes in grey)

Posted by Raphal Balimann at April 24, 2004 7:43 AM

Luke Hutteman philosophiert über mögliche
Luke Hutteman philosophiert über mögliche Microsoft ipod killer, wo bei er das microsoft-eigene (wohl recht klobige Gerät), das auf den Markt kommen soll, ausschliesst. Interessanter ist eine Codec - Variante, die so etwas wie "All you c...

Trackback from at May 4, 2004 6:36 AM

Future of Digital Media Player
̵ ÷̾ PDA ΰ? ƴϸ س ΰ? ƴϸ Digital convergence ߽ɿ ΰ? <

Trackback from α at May 11, 2004 12:52 AM

Future of Digital Media Player
̵ ÷̾ PDA ΰ? ƴϸ س ΰ? ƴϸ Digital convergence ߽ɿ ΰ? <

Trackback from α at May 11, 2004 2:22 AM

Monthly subscriptions for OD2 in Europe already use time-limited licenses. If you don't renew your subscription all your downloads expire. was an example of this before Yahoo! Launch bought them out. Not sure of any other companies that now do this

Posted by bob at May 14, 2004 2:20 PM

I got the Dell DJ myself. Though I love it, I wish I had one of the new colored iPods. There is just no playlist capability.

Posted by Gary Miller at May 23, 2004 3:17 AM

Apple does "get it" from a design perspective. The iPod belongs in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art as a great example of form and function. However, as much as I like it, I see no reason to drop my $150 iRiver IMP-550 MP3 CD Player in favor any of these mini-hard disk devices. OK, I can _only_ fit about 12 hours of music on a CD. Big deal. And, as for form and function, the iRiver remote with its own LCD screen _on the remote_ is phenominal. I can tuck the CD player into a pocket, pack, or auto console and do everything, browse the albums/tracks, change EQ, etc. from the remote. It may not be as beautiful as an iPod, but the functionality is superb.

I subscribe to RealRhapsody ($10/mo) as opposed to Launch. I can set up personalized "radio stations," (tell it up to 5 artists you like, and it will play their and similar artists' songs) as well as search for and listen to streaming audio from specific artists, albums, and tracks. I got the service so I could check out music without having to sink $10 to $18 into a CD only to find I do not like it. It is great. I can set up playlists, add artists & albums to my "library," and for $0.79 per song I can burn a CD -- which I can play on my IMP-550. I love this system. The only thing I might look forward to as a capacity upgrade is someday having an iRiver device that reads data DVDs loaded with 4.5 gb of mp3s. But really, CDs are light, cheap, and easy enough to carry. 700 mb per is just fine.

Posted by BJ at June 1, 2004 8:05 PM
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