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Online format music war

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There’s a coming battle for file standards in the online world. Think VHS vs Betamax.

An emerging version of this conflict is being fought out now over standards for music purchased online. It boils down to this: will Apple support Microsoft’s “Windows Media Audio” (WMA) format for purchased music on the iPod music player? Or has the Apple-preferred (but not Apple-owned) “Advanced Audio Codec” (AAC) format that it uses through its own iTunes Music Store become a de facto standard that others – including Microsoft – will have to adjust to?

To me, this seems to be somewhat of a strange argument. I know that on those rare occasions when I have gone on to Kazaa and it’s ilk (just for research, officer), the predominant standard has been mp3s, not WMA or AAC. Mp3s have good sound, aren’t encumbered by the somewhat ridiculous rights management overhead that WMAs are (I can’t speak to AAC) and pretty conclusively have the mindshare of the general public when it comes to online music.

…[M]ost people listening to music on digital players have most of it in MP3 format. I’d also bet that every music player out there now has at least one MP3 file on it. People who’ve got into digital music assume that MP3 is the default format. The challenge for Apple, and Microsoft, is to join MP3.

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  • One big difference between this war and the VHS vs Beta, is that it’s only bits.

    Since there is no physical form differences to contend with (I once had to pry a Betamax cassette out of my in-laws VHS vcr) it will end up being easy to convert between the formats.

    Although there will be “rights management” features, people will figure out how to get around that. Once its digital, its a “shape shifter”