Following the HP announcement at CES that it would be working with Apple and selling a rebranded version of the iPod (possibly called HPod, or more officially ‘HP Digital Music Player’) and bundling the Apple iTunes software on to HP PC’s, the general manager of Microsoft’s digital media division, David Fester has gone on record suggesting that HP going with Apple is a mistake as it would restrict consumer choice, “Windows is about choice – you can mix and match software and music player stuff. We believe you should have the same choice when it comes to music services.” Clearly the printed text alone cannot detect any irony that might have been in Mr Festers voice when talking about Windows and choice. What is also clear is that Microsoft must be seriously concerned about the perceived threat from Apple and their iPod.
There is a long, and previously frosty history between HP and Apple, starting way back when Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak, who was working at HP, asking them if they would be interested in marketing the personal computer. When they turned him down, he went off with Jobs to form Apple in 1976.
This is all now water under the bridge and as part of the deal HP gets “instant access to Apple’s technology and music rights and the opportunity to offer a full range of popular digital products to consumers”. Benefits for Apple include exploding the number of shops selling products based on their technology, leveraging HP current relationships with their 11,000 retailers around the world and widening the install base of Apple iTunes.
Further development of the HP Digital Music Player continues and it is thought that HP are working on integrating Microsoft’s Windows Media Audio (WMA) format to play back on the iPod for the first time and plan for the device to go on sale in June.
We find the Apple/HP deal interesting for a number of reasons, including that it is the first Jobs has done with an external hardware company since his return to Apple in 1997, when he cancelled all of the disastrous OEM deals that had been previously signed.