The two Ms in computer business

Two computer giants. Which one is better?

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.

Likewise, most portable music devices sold today — with the exception of Apple's best-selling and acclaimed iPod — use Microsoft's format.

That means consumers who use portable music players and buy songs from Apple must use the iPod; consumers who purchase from non-Apple online music stores must use portable devices based on Microsoft's format – informs &to=' target=_blank>USA Today

THE AGE &to=' target=_blank>THE AGE reports that If you're a musician - amateur musician, whatever - you know there's this intangible moment when something you're playing just sounds right.

You know the chorus where it all comes together and you feel like they just couldn't have written it any better?

Apple Computer made announcements that looked like technology, but felt like art - and they felt that way because Apple is successfully using technology to fundamentally change our relationship with music.

The biggest music news at CES was Apple Computer's partnership with Hewlett-Packard. HP will launch its own music player based on the iPod this June, and HP computers will come bundled with iTunes software. In another win for Apple, AOL has agreed to offer a music storefront based on the iTunes Music Store. Of course, music fans have to fill the players somehow, which is where the music services come in. Several companies announced new online music stores, while others tried to differentiate the marketing and offering of services. Sony announced its Connect music service, which will launch in the spring. It will work with Sony players, including its new MiniDisc player, the Hi-MD, which can store over 45 hours of music.

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