Microsoft Denies It's Cooking Up iPod Rival

Microsoft reps have denied recent rumors alleging that the company has partnered with a number of Japanese consumer-electronics firms to develop a device to compete in Japan with Apple's iPod.

Several reports are currently making the rounds, reporting that Microsoft has collaborated with eight other companies to create a new product to compete with Apple.

"The announcement that came out of Japan this week was simply about the Japanese launch of Windows Media Player 11," said a Microsoft representative who asked not to be named. "Due to translation issues the announcement was misconstrued to sound like Microsoft was developing a rival to the iPod; that's just not the case."

According to Microsoft, the press release (which is in Japanese) actually states that Microsoft announced availability for its new WMP 11 in the Japanese market.

The companies listed in the release are companies that Microsoft has partnered with in Japan to ensure a good user experience. These companies have all agreed to support Windows Digital Rights Management 10 for portable devices.

"The companies listed in the Japanese release are device partners," the representative said. "For example, in the U.S. one of our device partners is iRiver. We've partnered closely with them to ensure that their Clix [media player] device runs WMP 11 technology."

The release lists both device partners and service partners. Device partners include iRiver Japan, NTT DoCoMo, CreativeMedia, Toshiba and Victor JVC.

Service partners include The Language Channel, a subscription-based e-learning service; OCN Music Store, which is used for Portable Media Center (PMC)-optimized video downloads; and Napster Japan.

Napster Japan service is slated to become available in the fall of 2006.

"The announcement was written about the WMP 11 launch in Japan," said Microsoft representative Sally Julien. "The companies listed are partners who will use the technology in their products, just as they have done with WMP 10."

Both sources at Microsoft refused to comment when asked whether the company has plans to launch its own MP3 player. In addition, Microsoft refused to confirm recent rumors regarding a portable gaming device dubbed "xplayer."

"We don't comment on speculation," Julien said. "There are a ton of rumors out there right now but we have nothing to announce at this time."

Microsoft has already unveiled its WMP 11 technology in the states. The player comes integrated with MTV's URGE digital music service.

Similar to existing music download services, URGE also offers music blogs, feeds, editorial content, radio, and MTV/VH1/CMT channel hubs. URGE incorporates MusicNet's 2 million-track music library.

Microsoft reps say U.S. consumers can expect to see verified MEDIA devices rolling out to retail stores in the coming months. These devices will be interoperable with WMP 11 and URGE.

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