The music-file format war between Apple's AAC and Microsoft's WMA is like Betamax versus VHS, says CNN.

But where it is impossible to jam a Betamax video into a VHS player, there's no reason why digital music should not be universally compatible. Reporter Patrick Regnier explains: "The only thing stopping the new formats and music players from working together is some computer code."

In Regnier's opinion Apple is unlikely to make its format available for other digital music players soon. He says: "Apple admits that the iTunes Music Store is, at best, a low-profit business – which suggests that the real point of its 99¢ songs is to get people to buy iPods to play them on. So don't expect this format fight to be resolved soon."

"The folks at Apple tell me, and I believe them, that it's a quality issue. If third parties were allowed into Apple's iPod/iTunes/Music Store world, it wouldn't be so easy to use."

Regnier, who uses iTunes and therefore states that all other digital music players are "useless", offers the following advice to those trying to decide which side of the digital music war to join: "Go Apple and you'll own what's still the best-designed player on the market, working in tandem with the best combination of software and an online music catalogue. But you'll also pay more and have fewer choices. (Hey, longtime Mac users -- ring a bell?)

"With WMA, your costs go down as your options go up. But you won't be as chic, and you may find that buying music and getting it to your player is a clunkier process."

In related news, Neowin is reporting that the Portal Player-manufactured chip in Apple's iPod which allows the playing of AAC and MP3, also allows the playing of WMA, but Apple appears to have locked this facility.