Dell DJ: An iPod Killer?

Apple Computer's tenuous hold on the portable audio-player market might soon fall thanks to a predictable foe, Dell, whose Dell Digital Jukebox (Dell DJ) is off to a strong start. The Dell unit is a bit bigger than Apple's elegant iPod, but it features a more intuitive scrolling navigation wheel and support for Microsoft's ubiquitous Windows Media Audio (WMA) format, which all online music services except Apple use (even staunch Microsoft competitor RealNetworks, which has its own audio and video formats, uses WMA--a telling decision). The Dell DJ, which I previewed at COMDEX last week and will review soon for Connected Home EXPRESS, also features dramatically better battery life than the iPod, lower prices, a built-in audio recorder, and--gasp--a simpler interface than the iPod. As the owner of two iPods, I've long expected the PC world to catch up with--and surpass--Apple's entry. My only surprise is that it's taken this long. After all, Creative Labs, a PC company, not Apple, first innovated the hard-disk-based portable media player.

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