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According to some studies, more than 90 percent of hard-drive-based MP3 players are iPods. But iPod's overwhleming popularity has not slowed competition for the rest of the audience. Companies include some top names: Sony, IRiver and Philips. Does the competition merit a look? Yes. Some models rival the iPod in terms of storage capacity and design efficiency. The big difference right now between these contenders and the iPod is that non-iPod players do not play iTunes compatible AAC format. These players are all Windows-based, using the WMA, WAV and MP3 formats. For now, iTunes is the clear leader in terms of digital music sales.
Bottom line: Hard drive-based MP3 players from IRiver, Philips, Sony and others can rival the iPod in terms of storage capacity and quality, but aren't compatible with iTunes. If you have an investment in iTunes, you need to stay with Apple.