Microsoft wants to rule the world, according to 61 per cent of Macworld online readers voting in this week's poll. They think that Apple should not add Windows Media Audio support to the iPod, despite experts warning Apple: "Support other proprietary music formats or die."

But, over a third of readers think that the iPod should accept all formats, thereby ensuring that the iPod and iTunes Music Store continue to dominate the digital music industry. Just 4 per cent of the 1,713 voters were undecided.

The CEO of RealNetworks recently appealed to Apple to support other proprietary music formats. He said: "Apple is creating problems for itself by using a file format that forces consumers to buy music from Apple's own iTunes site." Some Macworld online readers agree that Apple needs to support other formats in order to preserve its popularity.

One reader notes: "The iPod would be even more popular if it supported WMA."

Another says: "Add 'em all, if it sells more iPods."

Some readers make suggestions of ways Apple could support the WMA format without actually supporting Microsoft. One says: "Apple should enable iTunes to import WMA files and automatically convert them into AAC files. That way it wouldn't be supporting Microsoft, and it wouldn't be deterring people."

Sound clash

But other readers express concerns that the process of converting tracks will involve loss of quality. One predicts: "If tracks were converted WMA to AAC on the fly they would inevitably lose quality."

Another suggests a solution: "If iTunes incorporated the ffmegx software users could convert WMA to AAC or MP3 with no perceivable loss in quality and there would be one less barrier for WMA library owners to go buy an iPod."

Ffmpeg is a video and audio encoder. The recently updated ffmpegX was developed for Mac OS X and can read MPEG-1, MPEG-2, DIVX 3, 4, 5, XviD, non-encrypted VOB, Quicktime .mov, DV, WAV, Real Audio, H263(+) (RealVideo 1.0), PGM, YUV, PPM, AC3, PCM8/16 bits, mulaw/Alaw, WMA, SUN AU format, MP2, MP3, and MJPEG, and encode them to DivX, XviD, VCD, CVD, SVCD and DVD.

Despite the vast numbers of readers who fear that by supporting WMA Apple will be helping Microsoft in its plan to dominate the world, some readers think that Apple has nothing to fear. One says: "iTunes has such a stronghold in the music market I don't think there is a risk that supporting WMA will make Microsoft more dominant."

But another reader counters: "Surely if iPod does start supporting WMA Microsoft would have reached world domination in the digital music sphere."

Another reader thinks that whether Apple supports WMA or not, Microsoft will still end up the dominant force. "Even though Apple is the dominant music provider now, WMA will eventually win out," he predicts.

It's Fairplay

The advice of another reader is: "Apple should license AAC to as many manufacturers as possible, as quickly as possible."

But another reader points out: "FairPlay is Apple's trump card to generate as much of the market as possible for themselves, and to make sure that the ease of use of the iTunes Music Store and iPod is protected in order to win over the public to a viable alternative to Kazaa and high street stores and CDs.

"If another company licensed Fairplay and then screwed up the ease of use with a weak player or a weak music store, it would undermine the credibility of this new concept in music. Apple has it all dead right and it can’t afford any loss of credibility."

One reader notes the fact that the European Commission has determined that Microsoft should remove Windows Media Player from its Windows Operating System. He suggests: "In light of MS being forced to unbundle WMA from Windows, is this going to be such a major issue?"