By Robert Menta- 11/19/01
Ok, You have a PC with built-in FireWire or an added FireWire card and you want to buy an Apple iPod as your MP3 jukebox player. The problem is, iPod's are Mac only right now and so far Apple has only hinted that a version for Windows machines is on the horizon. Enter Mediafour.
The Iowa-based software company has announced a cross-platform solution with XPod, which will allow the iPod to converse with all flavors of Windows machines including 95 and NT (two versions of Windows not supported by most MP3 players today because of their sub USB capabilities).
The XPod application, which is only in alpha phase at this point, hopes to bridge that time for PC owners between the iPod's release a few weeks ago and an official Wintel version from Apple. Successfully doing so could prove quite profitable for Mediafour as Apple has no such version in the pipeline at present. While the iPod got mixed reviews from analysts, the player offers several compelling features that give the iPod a leg up over jukebox competitors like the strong selling Nomad and Archos Jukeboxes.
FireWire is only one of those features. The problem is, only owners of Macs of more recent vintage (and a handful of PCs) have the speedy FireWire ports, which transfer files 35 times faster than USB. Furthermore, of the few PCs that presently offer FireWire some, like the Sony Vaio line of computers, offer an 'abridged' version that is minus some capabilities like the ability to power the iPod direct from the PC as it downloads files.
Still, nothing promotes new PC technologies like persuasive new products leveraging such technology. Think of what Napster did for CD burner sales as the most successful example of such promotion and you get the idea. There are a lot of techies out there who are drawn to FireWire's throughput like moths to a flame, but have resisted only because of the limited products available they can use it with. Apple's iPod is exactly that type of product as FireWire can fill the iPod's 5GB capacity with MP3s in only 10 minutes, something that would take a couple of hours for other jukebox portables. Tapping into the PC market here offers a potentially lucrative opportunity for Medifour, which is why it jumped in with its plans for XPod.
If the XPod proves to be a successful application (and not vaporware), it could not only increase sales for the iPod as dealers package the program with the player, but give FireWire another venue it needs to convince PC manufacturers it's time to make it a standard connection in Windows boxes.
Mediafour has not offered a date of when the finished XPod application can be expected, but it will probably be soon as it's greatest chances for success come only if they release it well before Apple decides to create its own PC/iPod interface. The company is presently taking names of interested users to inform them when the product is released.
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