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Thursday, July 06, 2006, 02:00 pm PT (05:00 pm ET)

Rumor: MS plans free song ploy to convert iPod users

Microsoft Corp. may be exploring a go-to-market strategy for its upcoming digital media player that would include giving iPod converts free access to download songs already purchased from Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store.

According to a report on Engadget, Microsoft's upcoming digital media player software may scan a user's iTunes library for purchased media and then automatically make those files available as free downloads from Microsoft's online music and video service.

"Microsoft will still have to pay the rights-holders for the songs, but they believe it'll be worth it to acquire converts to their new player," the publication said. Apple, of course, could then alter the way it stores and categorizes iTunes files, rendering Microsoft's software inoperable.

Currently, songs purchased from Apple's industry leading iTunes Music Store cannot be played on competing devices, which could deter iPod owners from switching to rival players.

Recent media reports have suggested that like Apple, Microsoft plans to enter the digital media player and digital download markets later this fall with its own end-to-end model, where it will control all aspects of the inter-working technology.

In its report on the subject, Engadget corroborates rumors that Microsoft's player will include Wi-Fi capabilities and says the device will pack a screen that's "bigger than that of the iPod video."

Microsoft reportedly plans to launch the device by November and follow up in 2007 with a MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) service where Windows Mobile-powered HTC handsets will be able to communicate on the same social network as the company's digital media player.