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Media (Apple) Businesses Media Operating Systems Software Windows Apple

Apple's iPod Chip Supports WMA? 84

John writes "Chip manufacturer Portal Player in Santa Clara builds the embedded PP5002 chip in Apple's iPod (allowing the playing of AAC and MP3). It has emerged that the chip firmware, by default, allows the playing of WMA. However, for some reason this is locked by Apple."
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Apple's iPod Chip Supports WMA?

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  • by dimator ( 71399 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:15PM (#8377180) Homepage Journal
    Ya, I can't imagine why they'd like to prevent the proliferation of a competing company's formats. Very strange...

    • Duh. Apple is supposed to be the one company that has an interest different than the rest of them- it is supposed to exist only to give its fans what they want, rather than to bring profit to its shareholders.

      So, since we know this as a fact, something more dubious must be afoot! Like, Micro$hafT is being EVIL! AND preventing from Apple from making it an OPEN STANDARD! MUST BE!
  • by eroyce ( 698151 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:17PM (#8377217)
    This is the same chip used by other MP3 players other than the iPod, which begs the question, why aren't more people supporting AAC on their players. >50% market share should be justification enough, nevermind the subjective debate of which format has higher quality.
    • I think the 50% market share you refer to is the market of legal music downloads. These files have DRM that would need to be licensed from Apple (an that won't be happening for quite a while).

      But that still leaves your original question: Why not support (non-DRM) AAC?
      • by Oculus Habent ( 562837 ) * <oculus.habent@gmai l . c om> on Wednesday February 25, 2004 @09:04AM (#8384894) Journal
        This is probably a case of expectation. If you support non-DRM AAC, people will assume that they could use their iTunes Music Store files with the player, then be dissappointed/angry/upset when they can't put the free song they got from Pepsi on their new player.

        Just as saying "We support WMA" creates the expectation of supporting WMA with DRM, so it is with AAC.

        That being said, they could offer "unsupported" support for AAC. It could be helpful to sales to let it slip that the non-DRM AAC files are playable.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Why does everyone confuse begging the question and raising the question. Begging the question means that the personing answering the question has just rephrased the question instead of actually answering it. I think we all know what "raising the question" means.

      Anyway, you have raised an excellent point!

  • WMA (Score:2, Informative)

    why would it be active? Wouldn't Apple have to pay for those rights to use it?
  • License fees (Score:5, Informative)

    by StarBar ( 549337 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:29PM (#8377351) Homepage Journal
    To decode WMA you will most probably pay an upfront fee which could be up to a six figure USD amount depending on how friendly the license owner might think you are. Software licenses are always negotiable and always depending on how eager you are to get it and how close to the next quarter you are. At least that is my first hand experience having both been a buyer and seller of licensed software.

    In addition there is also a royalty involved. For WMA this is true but for AAC you pay only an upfront fee ($15000) [vialicensing.com] but no royalties. That might be a reason not to support WMA by default in the iPod!?

    • So wouldn't it be nice to have it play OGG as well, there being no license fees involved with OGG?
      • Yeah, totally.

        And wouldn't it be nice if my ass played OGGs files too? Then I wouldn't even need an iPod or any other player!

        Wouldn't it be nice if it had a codec for NewtonScript bytecode? I mean, think about it; if you can have the spec for AAC, OGG and WMA, it is just a small step to get to decoding bytecode, and NewtonScript bytecode is even simpler than Java's. So...

        I think Apple is going to come out with a new PDA very soon. It'll be called the iOggtonpod. It'll OWN!
    • You do pay a license fee for AAC [vialicensing.com]. The $15000 fee is the "sign up fee". There are no royalties on distributing AAC files.

      WMA licensing fees [microsoft.com] are much less.
    • And in addition and seperate to any possible licensing fees for just the WMA format, I imagine there would be even more - money (lic fees, other) and work- involved in getting the iPod to play the WMAs people care about... that is, various DRM'd ones that are the songs folks have purchased in some iTMS-like service that sells WMAs rather than AACs.

      After all, if it's a boring, non-DRM'd WMA, why not just convert it to AAC or MP3?
    • For WMA this is true but for AAC you pay only an upfront fee ($15000) but no royalties

      Well, that's totally wrong. With AAC, there is a royalty on encoders and decoders. Generally, almost all AAC fees are higher than WMA fees.

      And yes, I realize this is redundant, but there are some people who like to moderate as "troll" anything that corrects pro-Apple FUD, so a little redundancy is useful to make it harder on them. :-)

      • Yeahh, you are right, there is a small royalty fee for AAC decoders, same for everybody. WMA has no public royalty price list that I know of. AAC is a part of MPEG-4 and I believe that QuickTime 6 also uses it. Apple->QuickTime->AAC makes sense. WMA does not. That might be a more accurate reason for not supporting WMA on the iPod?

        FYI, I use MacOS9, Win2K at home and Debian Linux at work (and at home sometimes).

  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:32PM (#8377374) Homepage
    How do I hack it to turn it on?

    Wait a minute... I don't own an iPod! Or any .WMA files! GAAAH!

  • by presearch ( 214913 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:44PM (#8377510)
    This isn't as simple as Apple not flipping the iPod WMA bit just to flip off Microsoft,
    although that's the implication in the article.

    Well yeah, the chip supports it. but that's just a small part of the total system.
    Apple would also have to integrate WMA into iTunes for Mac and Windows.
    To really do it right, it might be added at a lower level into Mac OS X as well.

    That now ties Apple into paying M$ royalties on iTunes and iPod, perhaps even
    OS X, and having to continually disclose to M$ on the number of units sold and to who.

    I think that Apple would want to avoid any further entanglements with M$ if they
    can be avoided. They know well what happens when you dance with the devil.
    Apple has probably suffered more from Microsoft's abusive practices than anyone.

    And one more thing... Drop the constant whining about OGG. Please.
    • And one more thing... Drop the constant whining about OGG. Please
      It's not a whine, it's just a request for a feature some of us would find genuinely useful. OGG is open, so it wouldn't have the same implications that licensing WMA would have.
  • by Mr. Darl McBride ( 704524 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @04:53PM (#8377597)
    Apple are offering MP3 because you pretty much have to offer that in a portable player or people won't buy it. Past that, Apple are pushing their secure digital standard, and would like for you to pretty please use that everywhere. It doesn't benefit Apple to do anything to back Microsoft's standard, or anyone else's for that matter. This is the same reason you don't see a plenitude of other BSD-type licensed CODECs in iTunes. They could add Ogg support in a day if they wanted.

    This is no different than Microsoft wanting to push their own formats above all others.

    • by eroyce ( 698151 )
      Just to be clear, the standard that Apple is using, MPeg4 (also called AAC) is not an "Apple Standard". This is a standard developed by the dolby digital people, and similar to the MP3 format, only the next revision. This is an open format. What makes the Apple files more proprietary is their use of the "Fair-play" DRM, which is not an Apple technology, but one that they license, as could anyone else.
      I agree that Apple could also have Ogg, or any other format easily, but right now they are not going
  • PP5002 Spec (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lizard_King ( 149713 ) on Tuesday February 24, 2004 @05:51PM (#8378303) Journal
    Here is the PP5002 spec: http://www.portalplayer.com/products/documents/500 2_brief_0108_Public.pdf

    WMA is indeed supported.
  • I've had several friends who have been ready to iPods, only to ditch it due to lack of WMA support. The way they see it, there is only one player that supports ACC, and many more that support WMA, and they don't want to invest in a format that's not going to be around for a while (the whole Beta-Max vs. VHS quandry). Want to compete better with WMA, Apple? Then you must, MUST find more companies to support your format. Either that, or break down and support WMA. Either one of those will make the iPod l
    • Tell your friends there is a little known format called mp3 and every player uses that, except SONY. You can also get wma to mp3 converters on the net anyway.
      • These people have thousands of songs in WMA, and enjoy it because the compression size is about one half of mp3. Would e you have them convert all those files (not to mention loss more quality in the process, as they'd be going from lossy to lossy) and take up way more hard drive space? Well, they won't. Instead they're going to buy one of the dozens of wma/mp3 players out there. Most every mp3 player does wma nowadays except the iPod. Any other ideas, smart ass?
        • All four of those people can buy a different player. Problem solved.
  • Looks to me like Apple's planning on buying the license to decode WMA in the somewhat near future, then giving iPod owners that ability in the form of a free or not-terribly-expensive downloadable patch. At least, that's what I would do.
  • HP branded iPod AND iTunes. HP PCs? WMAs? No problem.

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