MusicMatch quits Mac service

The maker of one of the most widely distributed third-party digital music players will stop supporting the Mac next week as the company seeks to focus on Windows products.

Starting next week, MusicMatch will no longer support a Macintosh version of its product, the company revealed Tuesday.

MusicMatch makes one of the most widely distributed third-party digital music players. Dell Computer, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard distribute the software on new PCs. Gateway and HP also offer access to MusicMatch's Radio MX subscription service, which lets consumers listen to streamed music selected on genre.

The development is interesting, say analysts, as the San Diego-based company provides the software Apple Computer uses to synch its iPod music player with Windows PCs.

"That's curious, isn't it?" said analyst Toni Duboise of market research firm ARS. "It sounds like they have conflicting initiatives here. It doesn't bode well for Apple as they build up their multimedia image. It's an ouch for them."

MusicMatch was an important early supporter of Mac OS X at a time when Apple had difficulty getting developers to release new products for the operating system. MusicMatch Jukebox for Mac OS X is currently at version 3.

The software company made the decision to drop Mac support for purely businesses reasons.

"It no longer made sense to double our development efforts," said MusicMatch spokeswoman Jennifer Roberts. "The development efforts weren't worth what we're getting back on them," she said. The company will redouble its work on Windows, she added.

Apple's digital music product "iTunes is great software," said Roberts. She noted that owing to the stiff competition posed by iTunes, MusicMatch Jukebox had a small number of Mac users.

Of the more than 180,000 Radio MX subscribers, for example, only a few hundred are Mac users. Those few hundred people will lose access to the service after MusicMatch officially drops Mac support.

"They'll get an e-mail next week, before it's discontinued," Roberts said.

Analysts could not say whether the decision would have any impact on MusicMatch's Windows development with Apple. If anything, the move, which would remove a potential competitor to iTunes, might bolster the relationship between MusicMatch and Apple.

"Apple requires loyalty from their vendors, so they may be upset with MusicMatch about this," Duboise said. "But at the same time, they are eliminating a competitor, so it could be good for MusicMatch."

Apple unveiled a Windows version of iPod during New York's Macworld Expo in New York. The Cupertino, Calif.-based company started selling the product in late August, using a specialized version of MusicMatch 7.1 for synchronizing between the music player and Windows PCs.

But in the meantime, MusicMatch released version 7.2 of the software. Windows iPod users who had upgraded had to go back to version 7.1 for synchronization. MusicMatch is working with Apple on an update, expected to be available sometime next month.

Interest has been growing in MusicMatch software, even as the company fends off increased pressure from competing products, such as iTunes, Microsoft's Windows Media Player 9 Series and RealNetwork's RealOne. During the summer, MusicMatch renewed important bundling deals with Gateway and HP, which ensure the company's software is shipped on new consumer PCs.

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