A news report from financial website Bloomberg claims that Microsoft plans to release a J Allard-overseen wireless portable music and video player in time for Christmas, in a move to directly compete with Apple's popular iPod player.
The news follows a March report from San Jose Mercury News reporter Dean Takahashi that Allard is heading efforts to create a new portable, Xbox branded game console, with other prominent Xbox figures also being involved and some music/video functionality - but it is unclear whether this device is the same as the one cited in the Bloomberg report.
The Bloomberg report does note that Microsoft has hired music industry executive Chris Stephenson, who has reportedly met with representatives from Hollywood studios, the music industry, and television broadcasters in order to get agreements signed to provide licensed content for the new player.
According to the news agency, Microsoft's upcoming digital player, whose creation is being overseen by J Allard as well as Xbox executive Robbie Bach, will include wireless internet connectivity, so users will be able to download music without a computer – a feature not currently supported by the iPod.
Research firm NPD Group is also cited in the article as noting that Apple currently holds a commanding 77 percent of the digital music player market, and the company's popular iTunes music store is used for 72 percent of music downloads, leading to Microsoft's more aggressive moves into this area - however, this new report doesn't mention any game capabilities for the device.
“This would not be the first time Microsoft has decided it needed to take control of its own destiny with regard to hardware,” noted Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with Jupiter Research in New York in the report. “Not coincidentally, the last time they did that it was in video games and the guys doing it were named Robbie Bach and J Allard.”
However, as previously mentioned, there is no mention of anything video game related with regards to the forthcoming handheld, which will apparently feature a higher quality screen than currently available on the iPod, leaving the possibility of game compatibility extant.