We've now known for several weeks that Microsoft has under wraps a self-branded digital music and media player that hopes to give the iPod some true market competition. We've also heard that this "xPod" will work hand in hand with a Microsoft-branded music service and that this new music ecosystem will appear in time for the holidays. Everyone (Chicago Tribune, TheStreet, the New York Times) is positioning this as the MP3 battle royale between Apple and Microsoft, a potential showdown like never before. I think it's a good move for Microsoft to take things into its own hands rather than just provide the WMA platform and pray that the iRivers and Creatives can create something that (1) has mass appeal and (2) works. But the challenge of taking away from Apple's 77+ percent market share in the States will be formidable, especially since the next iPod will probably be out at the same time. In addition, who really knows if Microsoft can pull this together, especially considering it has already been heavily involved and invested in trying to capture market share (that is, WMP11, Urge and all those WMA stores, services, and players). In addition to offering a seamless and easy-to-use ecosystem, Microsoft will have to offer some big guns (design, performance, features) in the new player. Fortunately for Microsoft, I think there is disenchantment revolving around the iPod Goliath.
There are whispers that the portable media device will include integrated Wi-Fi, a big screen, and built-in social networking features. What's more, according to Engadget, Microsoft could offer to replace iPod users' iTunes tracks with WMA tracks for free if they convert to the Microsoft player. Not a bad deal, though you'll still have to buy into DRM either way. Microsoft also has the "x-factor", Xbox brainchild Robbie Bach, working on this project.
What do you think of a Microsoft "xPod" and its chances against the iPod machine?