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Locked in: Apple iPod vs. the others

Locked in: Apple iPod vs. the others

I love my iBook. Something about the Mac interface since OS X was first introduced appeals to me--probably the fact that it's all friendly and bubbly and whatnot. I mean, let's face it, the Mac OS is beautiful, and apps made specifically for it--such as iLife, iWork, and Dashboard--are extremely handy and easy to use, even for technophobes.

So here's my problem: I don't want to use the iPod. It's not that I don't like it exactly, though I certainly have my issues (one of which has since been resolved). It's more that once I get an iPod, I have to buy my digital music from iTunes, and once I start doing that, I have to continue buying iPods--that is, unless future players support all protected content, AAC, WMA, and otherwise. Please, can't we just all get along? I do not like getting trapped into a cyclical model, thankyouverymuch. At least with the Windows players--as we're calling all the non-Sony, non-Apple MP3 players now--I have my choice of stores. And once I buy from those stores, I have the choice of getting a different MP3 player when I get a new one. Plus, as the subscription model continues to improve (currently, a WMA-only thing), I like it more and more.

But back to the original issue, which is actually related to the application of Janus compatibility (on-the-go subscriptions) in practically all new and future Windows players. I started thinking about this several months ago, when I first saw the iRiver U10, but it came rushing back when I was at CES and actually met another Mac user who wanted to get a non-iPod MP3 player. (Incidentally, his reason is that he's owned four iPods in a row, and all broke shortly after the warranty was up.) I thought I was the only one.

When iRiver brought the beautiful U10 to CNET back in October, I was stoked. In the past, iRiver players have been Mac compatible--not so with the U10. Apparently, Janus compatibility requires a Windows-specific mass-storage protocol that the Mac OS is currently unable to recognize. And because Mac users represent such a small percentage of overall PC users, there's no revenue being put into adding Mac compatibility. Plus, probably about 99.9 percent of Mac users with an MP3 player are all about the iPod. I guess those nine other people and I are out of luck. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. Last I checked, all Cowon players were Mac-friendly, but while the company's players sound excellent and are packed with features, the complex interface and the sometimes poorly laid-out controls aren't conducive to the Mac spirit. Are there solutions out there that I'm missing? Please let me know below.