Up until recently, I've never had an iPod. It wasn't that I didn't like them - I think they're the best looking MP3 players out there. There was one reason, and one reason only that I hadn't bought one - iTunes. On Windows, and it has to be amongst the clunkiest applications from a major software company I've ever used. I'm not sure if it's because of the desire to make it look like a Mac and custom-draw everything, or just sloppy coding. It just always seems clunky and unresponsive, and hogs machine resources.
To make things worse, Apple started telling people not to upgrade to Vista because iTunes didn't work properly on it. WTF! Apple had how long to sort this out? You can't just tell people not to upgrade their operating system because you failed at meeting the deadline for your music player! (I do see this has since been fixed).
Anyway, back to the point. What stopped me buying an iPod was iTunes. The software is nasty, and I already have my music collection in Windows Media Player, which plays nice with Windows Media Center and my Xbox 360. If Apple made the iPod work with Windows Media Player, I'd have bought one. Assuming there are other people like me, Apple are losing potential business by trying to force people on to iTunes. I found there were a few ways to get Windows Media Player to work with the iPod, but it required 3rd party plugins (and cost money), and I wasn't about to buy an iPod to find these solutions aren't stable.
As fate would have it, I received a Blue 4GB iPod nano from my auntie when she was visiting from the US. The whole idea of not wanting to buy one in case it didn't work was squashed. I had an iPod, and I was going to use it, with or without Windows Media Player support!
When I got home, I downloaded a trial of MGTEK dopisp - one of the plugins claiming to get the iPod working with Windows Media Player. There are a few other plugins to do this, but a quick Google revealed less unhappy people using this one! I installed the plugin, connected my iPod, and fired up Windows Media Player.
Error! I was greeted with a dialog telling my my iPod had never been set up (via iTunes) and couldn't be used. I had a feeling this would happen, and luckily I had a laptop running Windows XP I was about to flatten! I installed iTunes and set up the iPod, then tried again. The iPod now appeared (with the name I assigned in iTunes) in Windows Media Player as a mobile device. I grabbed a few songs and tried to sync. It worked. It worked exactly like I wanted it to. It was that easy.
That makes me wonder why Apple didn't write a similar plugin? I understand they really want people to use iTunes, but is it really worth losing iPod sales over? Forcing people to use your software is not the way to do business. Sell your iPod on what it is. Sell iTunes on what it is. If people just want one, let them have it. You're lucky I received an iPod as a present, because you'd have missed out on this sale without native Windows Media Player support.