Can't we all just get along?

As one who, for years, did not use any Apple products (indoctrinated in the ways of Windows as I was, and too addicted to right-clicking to do without it on a Mac), I was spared the full ridiculousness of the Apple/Microsoft bickering for a long while.

And then I got my iPod, installed iTunes on my (Windows-based) laptop, and started to twig to the full scope of the incompatibility between the two camps. The iTunes installation was messy and clunky, and though it eventually succeeded, it was a marked pain in the ass, which I'm told it's markedly not on Apple machines.

This afternoon, I made the mistake of falling for the Buy 1 Song/Get 5 Free offer MSN Music is currently running. (I'll save my comments on the perplexing and convoluted design of the site for another post, but will only say for now that clearly last year's exodus has had some repercussions.) I downloaded a Neko Case song--which involved an inordinate number of steps and a needless dearth of feedback (but again, that's another post)--confirmed that it was saved to My Music folder, closed WMP (which opened automatically, to my annoyance), and then tried to import it to iTunes, as one is wont to do.

But I should've known better. I should've known that files from MSN Music come not in any format that anyone else on the face of the planet would ever use, but rather in some crazy proprietary format that is, of course, incompatible with iTunes. MSN's answer to "How do I transfer my downloads to my iPod?" is basically "You can't, at least not until Apple agrees to support our file format."

I mean, come on now. Even if every other MP3 player on the market supports your wacky WM format, how far are you going to get if iPods don't? And why be stubborn to the point of almost inviting failure just to stick it to Apple? (I suppose the reverse also holds, but history seems to suggest that MS is the bigger bully by far.)

There has got to be a point at which cross-platform compatibility becomes more important than this incessant and ridiculous proprietary sparring. In the realm of online media services and serious innovation, MS has been playing catch-up for years now, and I can't imagine that releasing a music download service that doesn't allow for any compatibility with a device that is so clearly miles ahead in the market will do anything to help the cause.

I'm not quite ready to jettison my Windows-based machine (both because I just shelled out for it last year and because I'm still hooked on right-clicking as one fluid motion), but my disillusionment with the stuff coming out of MS is growing. Who knows? By the time this laptop bites it, I may well be ready to return to my days as a Mac girl. In the meantime, I've learned that even $0.99 was too big a gamble to take on MSN Music. It's back to iTunes and Amazon (and every other online music store that offers iPod-compatible downloads--which is to say, ALL of them).

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