Mac vs. Microsoft: The musical

When purchasing a personal computer, buyers used to grapple with the decision: a Macintosh from Apple Computer or a Microsoft-based PC? Microsoft effectively won that operating system debate years ago and claims more than 90% of the PC operating system market. But in the push to legally sell digital music, Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT), and their incompatible file formats, are at it again. Consumers are in the position of having to choose as hardware makers line up behind either Microsoft or Apple's software format.

Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) recent surprise decision to snub longtime PC partner Microsoft and offer Apple music software on its PCs shows how unpredictable this battle may be. "Microsoft lost the first round of the digital music war," says Phil Leigh, an analyst with research firm Inside Digital Media. Apple's iTunes software "was good enough to persuade (H-P) ... to switch. That's huge." For now, Dell (DELL), which battles H-P for PC market share dominance, promotes music in Microsoft's Windows Media Audio (WMA) format on its computers — as do most Windows-based PCs.

News source: USA Today

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