Software colossus Microsoft remained tight-lipped regarding media reports that it intended to unleash its own version of Apple Computer's popular iPod MP3 player.
Unofficial word that the Redmond, Washington, company was gearing up to market
a hand-held digital music and movie player in time for the Christmas shopping season set the Internet abuzz with talk of an "iPod killer".
"The stories you are seeing are based on speculation and rumors and, as such, we didn't participate," Microsoft said in a two-sentence release. "We don't have anything to announce at this time."
News reports cited unnamed entertainment industry executives that contended they were briefed this week on a Microsoft plan to go head-to-head with Apple's market leading iPod player and iTunes online music store duo.
The Microsoft device would do what the iPod can't: allow users to wirelessly download music, according to executives quoted.
Microsoft has negotiated with record companies and television studios for permission to sell their music and video offerings through an online store similar to iTunes, the news reports contended.
"It makes perfect sense and it seems quite plausible," said Rob Helm, director of research at Directions on Microsoft, a Washington firm specializing in tracking the company.
"The Achilles' heel of Microsoft's music strategy has always been how difficult it is to make Windows-based players work with Windows PCs. An obvious solution is for Microsoft to make its own player."
Meanwhile, Microsoft and Bouygues Telecom announced Thursday will collaborate to launch a new mobile music service in France in 2007.
Windows Media software would be incorporated in a "next-generation music offering" to be launched in France in the first half of next year, according to the companies.
Bouygues cellphones would be tailored for the service.