Will Microsoft launch Xbox iPod?

It seems increasingly likely that Microsoft will launch its own portable media player in an attempt to break Apple’s stranglehold on the download musi

It seems increasingly likely that Microsoft will launch its own portable media player in an attempt to break Apple’s stranglehold on the download music market.

The rumours began with a series of reports from the Far East in early June that suggested Microsoft was speaking to manufacturers about creating its own MP3 player. Although Microsoft denied the reports, Reuters

subsequently reported that the company was in negotiations with record labels to create its own music download service to challenge iTunes.

Then, earlier this week, further reports linked Xbox chiefs Robbie Bach and Jay Allard to the project to create a hardware player to work alongside the new download service, much as Apple’s iPod sits snugly alongside iTunes.

The decision to create an own-brand player follows Microsoft’s increasingly desperate attempts to destroy the iPod by supporting rivals such as Creative, iRiver and other manufacturers of PlaysForSure-branded players.

With the launch of Windows Media Player 11 beta in May, Microsoft revealed its long-awaited partnership with MTV - a download service called URGE. Unfortunately for Microsoft, MTV quickly followed the announcement by making content available through iTunes.

So will Microsoft ever overtake Apple, which has cornered over 70 per cent of the US market? Well, it’s possible. Research shows that Apple is less dominant outside America, while many consumers are starting to resent Apple’s restrictive digital rights management, which only allows iTunes downloads to be played on Apple-branded MP3 players.

However, Microsoft’s brand is hardly rock’n’roll – as is shown by this hilarious video imagining what Microsoft’s iPod packaging would look like.

So, it would seem that if Bill Gates really wants to beat Steve Jobs, he’s going to have to rely on Bach and Allard create another strong Xbox-type brand that doesn’t smell too much of Windows.