15 September 2006

Zune - MIcrosoft's iPod Beater?

Although pieces of the puzzle have been put floating around for weeks, Zune has finally come into focus.

Zune is a hard disk-based player with an 802.11b/g wireless network adaptor for downloading and sharing music files, an FM tuner and a 3 inch LCD for navigation and video playback.

Zune Marketplace will be Microsoft's music download service; you can either pay by the file or subscribe to get all you want.

When you share music files, it's the opposite of what happens in The Ring movie - the media dies 3 days after they watch it. That's because Zune will add a DRM time-to-live wrapper to copies of files you share.

On the upside, Zuneinsider reports that Zune will support your existing, unprotected, music library (MP3, AAC and WMA files), as well as video formats (WMV, H.264, MPEG4, 320x240), and JPG photo files.

Interestingly, Microsoft may offer a 'competitive migration' option - you will be able to download free copies of music that you previously downloaded from iTunes to your iPod.

So far, sounds good - but we don't yet know the price for this potential iPod beater, and users will be very critical if the hands-on user experience fails to live up to the high standard set by Apple. Also, many users are only interested in solid state players that are lighter and more robust than the HDD variants.

I'll certainly take a hands-on look when this little handful hits retail, but I wonder about one thing - why didn't Microsoft call it Xune to create a brand connection with it's other consumer entertainment device - the Xbox? And what capabilities will it have in connection with XP Media Center?