Microsoft denies building iPod rival in Japan

Posted by Scott M. Fulton, III

Redmond (WA) - This morning, a key Microsoft product manager denied a story published last Friday by Bloomberg News stating that the company was working with a handful of partner companies, including JVC, Toshiba, and NTT DoCoMo, to build a rival device to Apple's iPod for the Japanese market.

Adam Anderson, Microsoft's product manager for the Windows Digital Media division, told TG Daily that the company had staged an elaborate press event last Wednesday in Tokyo, to promote the rollout of Windows Media Digital Rights Management 10 for Portable Devices. On hand to help Microsoft celebrate were the three companies Bloomberg News mentioned, along with MP3 player manufacturers iRiver and CreativeMedia, and three other companies that will be providing services over Windows DRM, including Napster Japan. While they were at it, Microsoft and its partners demonstrated Beta 1 of Windows Media Player 11, which premiered in the US three weeks ago in a rollout event co-sponsored by MTV Networks.

"The announcement made was simply the release of the Windows Media Player 11 technical beta in Japan," Anderson stated, "and collaboration with eight hardware partners who use Windows Media technologies for their portable devices. Some press reports around this were inaccurate, as we did not make any mention of creating our own services or devices."

The MP3 devices these eight companies produce could, in a technical sense, promote Windows DRM to the role of a competitive platform, at least from the consumer's vantage point. But these companies are not working together to accomplish this, and Microsoft is not pulling them together into some kind of coalition to go after Apple.

"As most in the industry know," Anderson continued, "Microsoft has been working with device manufacturers for many years as they create new devices to enjoy music and video on the go, and this announcement was consistent with that approach."

The Japanese version of WMP 11 Beta 1 was launched on Wednesday, though without MTV Networks' URGE as its service partner.