Today’s quiz: I’ll describe a familiar scenario. You decide if it’s ancient history or current news.

Apple sells devices manufactured by Apple, running software designed by Apple, sold in a store that belongs to Apple. Nobody else is allowed to use Apple’s technology. It gains a reputation for being cool.

Microsoft comes in later with something that is similar to what Apple has been marketing. Microsoft sells directly to consumers but it also licenses its technology to dozens of hardware vendors – and the hardware vendors contribute to marketing Microsoft’s technology. At first Microsoft doesn’t take many customers away from Apple; instead, it brings new people in who hadn’t previously begun to use the technology. Microsoft soon takes over the dominant position, leaving Apple gasping in the dust.

Surprise! It’s ancient history and current news!

Microsoft has opened a preview of its online music store, MSN Music, to compete with iTunes. It’s deja vu all over again.

When you purchase music from Apple’s online store, the songs arrive in Apple’s proprietary AAC format that can only be played back on Apple’s iPod. Although HP announced an HP-branded iPod a few days ago, Apple has resisted every other overture to open up its proprietary format for playback on any other portable device.

MSN Music offers songs in Microsoft’s Windows Media format, which can already be played back on more than 70 different portable devices from a number of manufacturers.

We know how this story comes out, don’t we?

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