Monday, July 17, 2006

Player upgrades, new devices on music horizon writes about "the rampant speculation over the digital music plans of Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL)" with both "companies said to be readying portable digital music players in time for the holiday sales season that significantly raise the bar on features and functionality previously unavailable in their respective product lines."

One of the rumors is Microsoft's player will be Wi-Fi enabled. JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg said, "It's a nonissue. It's something that the geeks are into, but Wi-Fi isn't mainstream or ubiquitous enough to affect the masses."

Gartenberg pointed out that "besides Wi-Fi's penchant for eating up battery life, the idea of music search and discovery on a handheld device is a user-interface nightmare, which makes it a questionable lynchpin." He hoped to "see a device that builds upon the key factors that made the iPod a hit -- design, usability and marketing."

apple is also rumored to be working on a Wi-Fi-enabled iPod. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster noted that "Apple, which normally releases two new iPod models every 12 months, has yet to unveil a new product in the series this year. He expects Apple to introduce a wireless version of the iPod this fall."

Michael McGuire at Gartner G2 said, "If these scenarios pan out, and we get some interesting products out there, the potential would be that these could be devices that attract more consumers to buying more digital downloads than physical CDs. It is important to have more than one or two vendors if you want the market to grow rapidly. It is an actual ecosystem as opposed to a smaller ecosystem dominated by one company."

Gartenberg added, "Another strong player who can grow the market overall and take away some of the power Apple wields in negotiations is something people are quietly rooting for. If the rumors are true, it'll be an interesting fall."