It's almost like MSX all over again. Microsoft, Toshiba, JVC, NTT DoCoMo, Creative, iRiver and three other firms have banded together in a bid to prevent Apple's iPod from completely dominating the Japanese portable music player market.
The nine companies yesterday said they would co-operate to promote Windows Media-based music and video services in a programme not unlike the Plays For Sure scheme Microsoft launched in 2004. The firms will all stress how compatible their respective software, devices and services are and how well they all work with Windows PCs.
The move follows the launch of a Japanese version of the Windows Media Player 11 beta release.
Last month, NTT DoCoMo said it would offer phones with Windows Media Player on board. Rival carrier KDDI has said it will offer Walkman-branded handsets. Both hope such schemes will prevent the music download market in Japan moving too far toward computers and away from mobile.
Certainly, computer downloads are becoming increasingly popular in Japan, accounting for ten per cent of music download sales in Q1, according to figures published by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) this week. That figure is up from 4.7 per cent in Q1 2005, the organisation said.
Apple launched its iTunes Music Store in Japan in August 2005, and it's been leading the growth in demand for music downloads to computers. But such downloads accounted for just 6.7 per cent of all the songs downloaded in Q1, up from 2.1 per cent a year earlier. Apple and co. clearly have a long way to go to displace mobile downloads. ®