In a curious move, HP announced yesterday that it will soon join
the suddenly crowded market for online music services. HP will
apparently license software from Musicmatch, which has its own service
that it already licenses to Dell, the leading PC maker. And in a move
sure to raise the ire of Apple Computer fans, HP even announced that
it will expand its growing selection of consumer-electronics devices
to include a portable digital audio player similar to Apple's iPod.
Unlike the iPod, however, HP will support Microsoft's popular Windows
Media Audio (WMA) format; Apple's music service and portable player
are the only such products that don't support WMA.
HP's plans seem to mirror those of other PC makers such as Dell and
Gateway, which see consumer electronics as a huge growth market,
especially during a time when PC sales have slowed. But the online
music market is far more crowded than the PC market. In addition to
established players such as market-leader Apple, BuyMusic.com,
Napster, and RHAPSODY, HP will compete with Dell, Wal-Mart, Sony,
Viacom/MTV, and probably a host of other companies by the time HP's
service goes online in early 2004.