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iPod opening up for Windows users

New MacOpener software from DataViz lets people play files from Apple's iPod digital music player on a Windows-based PC.

Developer DataViz updated its MacOpener software on Tuesday to support Apple Computer's iPod digital music player.

MacOpener allows Windows users to open files created on a Macintosh. The product also is built into DataViz's Conversions Plus Suite 6. The Milford, Conn.-based company makes translation and file-compatibility software for Windows, Mac OS and Palm OS.

DataViz said the updated MacOpener requires a third-party product, such as TrentSoft's EphPod, to use all the features.

Used alone, the MacOpener software can mount iPod as an external hard drive to which files can be transferred. But with EphPod, consumers also can manage and transfer MP3s that can be listened to on iPod. XPlay and MacDrive from MediaFour offer similar features.

Apple unveiled the iPod, a shirt-pocket-sized digital music player built around a 5GB hard drive, in October. To date, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has provided software supporting only Macs. The iPod, which uses a FireWire connection to hook up to a Mac, synchronizes using Apple's iTunes software.

Software developers quickly realized an opportunity to fill the void Apple left for Windows users. EphPod is one of several Windows-based products for syncing up with iPod. But TrentSoft is still beta testing the software and has yet to release a final version of EphPod.

"As soon as the iPod was released without Windows support, we had a number of our customers turn to us for a solution," said DataViz spokeswoman Kristen Garvey.

Windows users interested in the MacOpener update can download the software directly from DataViz. The update also is included with the newest EphPod beta. Both companies had offered an earlier MacOpener version for iPod, but DataViz spokeswoman Ellen Strong said FireWire support was "iffy." The company now fully certifies MacOpener as compatible with iPod, she said. The update is free for MacOpener 6.05 users; others will have to pay an upgrade fee.

"Together with EphPod, it provides Windows users with an iPod solution that is just as easy and flexible as iTunes is for Macintosh owners," said Joe Masters, EphPod's developer, in a statement.

Apple released a second 10GB iPod model in March, but failed to offer Windows software for syncing with the music player.

Offering Windows versions of software for Mac-only products is not without precedent. Apple, for example, offers a Windows utility for managing AirPort 802.11b wireless base stations.

The company said it had not ruled out releasing Windows software for the iPod. The July Macworld Expo in New York could see Apple do this.

"Obviously they have to be thinking about that, because they have the best product in that category," said NPD Techworld analyst Stephen Baker. "It comes down to whether they want to endorse Mac products for Windows users, especially given some of the advertising and other things they're doing."

On Monday, Apple launched an ad campaign and Web site for wooing PC users to the Mac.

"Given that, I'm not convinced Apple wants to endorse its products for Windows users," Baker said.