Should Apple Release iPod Software For Windows?


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Recent stories at ThinkSecret and elsewhere have speculated about Apple's development of Windows software designed to talk to the very successful iPod MP3 player-and-FireWire-hard-drive all in one. You and I can talk to it via iTunes. Plug. Copy. Go.

No less an authority than Steven P. Jobs has declared that a Windows version is under consideration, but that the "experience wouldn't be as good."

So should Apple release iPod software for the Great Unwashed? Dare we suggest it, iTunes for Windows?

A PC-toting pal of mine, who worships at the temple of Windows NT, made this clear recently when he declared the iPod "great" and the "best MP3 player out there." But there was a catch: "I'm not gonna buy a Mac just to use it.

And fair enough, too. Why should he? But many others like him may just push $399 worth of folding the AppleStore's way if they can make their beige boxes work with the thing.

One company, Mediafour, the makers of MacDrive, is working on XPlay, their Windows-compatible iPod software. They're at Beta1 so far. They've built XPlay on the back of their popular MacDrive software, which adds Mac volume read-write capabilities to a Windows PC.

With all due respect to the Mediafour guys, you only have to read their FAQ to see what a kludgey, lousy, buggy experience you're missing using an iPod with Windows. If I've interpreted them correctly, we're talking a form of emulation here, and performance is lousy and unreliable, especially under Win 98 SE (something still running on a lot of PCs).

So Steve was right.

But we imagine Apple will be watching XPlay very carefully to see if this stalking horse gets up and gallops. Because if it does, Apple may well have the incentive to produce a Windows version of iTunes, not only pushing the iPod into Windows-only areas, but also the whole Mac interface and some of the experience. Not forgetting, if the iPod develops further, as some kind of PDA, it could also open up a whole new market - Windows customers - for the iPod as a one-stop shop for all their infotainment needs.

Put BlueTooth on it (and even let them sync with a Dull notebook, if absolutely necessary) and they won't know what hit 'em.

Yes, this opens up a whole can of worms. The education-only AppleWorks for Windows is kept very low-profile by Apple, and Final Cut, iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto are strictly Mac-only (in some cases, Mac OS X only).

The difficulty is the billable hours involved in developing software for yet another platform (given that Apple does still have software out there for OS 9 and OS X). Windows work is something Apple doesn't have to do in house; it could easily contract it out as needs require.

But the question is, will they? And should they?