Bear with me...yet another mp3 player question

I’ve had a look at all the iPod threads on here, but as I am technologically retarded, I haven’t quite worked this issue out:
My question is, is the free iTunes software that you can download from the internet going to enable me to convert CD tracks to mp3 format and play them on a non-iPod mp3 player? Or will I have to go and find some other software if I decide to purchase a non-iPod (say a SanDisk or iRiver) ?

I really want to get an mp3 player with between 1 and 10 GB of storage, but money is an object. I’m weighing up and trying to compare all the battery, software, storage, ease-of-use issues before I spend my scrimped-together dollars on an mp3 player.

Please help and please don’t use highly technical language (or if you do, please provide a translation).

Itunes will allow you to directly transfer music to a very limited number of non-ipod mp3 players.

However the mp3s that Itunes encodes(Note: Itunes by default encodes AAC, not mp3) will work in any mp3 player.

Most mp3 players come with their own software to encode/transfer music anyway.

Have you looked at the iriver mp3 players? I have one, and although it’s one of their smaller ones, the sound quality is awsome and the battery lasts forever. It comes with it’s own software, and a deal with to get 100 free downloads.

A lot of flash-memory players (as opposed to harddrive players…I’ve never used one) that I’m familiar with are basically plug-and-play. That is, you plug them in (usually via USB) and they show up as a drive in explorer (or Finder on a mac, I assume…I’m not great with macs). Then you just drag and drop whatever you want. So you wouldn’t do it THROUGH iTunes, but just about as easily.

I went one step further and got a compact flash card-based player. I just stick the card in a reader, fill it up, and then back into the player it goes.

Yes. I don’t have an iPod, and I use iTunes to rip and store my music. I rip everything to MP3s so I can put them on whatever gadget I want, iPod or otherwise.

The only thing Apple has that’s a “proprietary format” are the songs they sell at their online music store – and you can certainly choose not buy from them to avoid that mess.

I was actually talking to my gf about this last night. What’s the big deal about iPods anyway? Is just a recent pop culture phenomenon, or are these things really that much better than anything else out on the market right now?

Inquiring minds want to know!

I believe they were the first relatively inexpensive high-capacity .mp3 players. They filled a niche, and they were the first to do it, thus they gained momentum and market share. Snowball effect.

It was vastly superior to everything else when I originally switched to iPods (about 2 yrs ago) - at least I felt so, especially in terms of size and ease of use. Not sure if it’s true anymore, but it’s still a very well designed product. And I’m not even a Mac zealot (I prefer Windows).

Generally speaking, they hit the sweet spot for capacity, price, size, ease of use, and style. There are other MP3 players that may beat an iPod in one or two areas, but not in all of them, especially ease-of-use.

Huge fan of iRiver. I have a 10 gig player and love it. Was significantly less expensive than the same HD capacity iPod as well.

Thanks everyone.

So basically the software you need to rip CDs to mp3s is either going to come with the mp3 player, or I can use iTunes or MusicMatch which are free…have I got it right?
I just want to avoid going for a less expensive player…and then finding out that I have to go and spend extra on software and acccessories anyway!

A USB port, are they on standard PCs?

If you bought your PC within the past five years or so, it almost certainly has a few. They’re small rectangular ports.