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Microsoft's PMP comes to life

Microsoft has been waiting for this moment for quite some time, and now the time has come. Apple had its day in the spotlight on Tuesday when it announced its 5.5G iPod, 2G iPod Nano and 2G iPod Shuffle, but Microsoft today is touting its new Zune Portable Media Player. What was once known as "Project Argo" now has to start the long journey uphill to take on the dominant champ Cupertino, California.

Details about the player really started coming to light last month when the Toshiba 1089 appeared on the FCC website (always a great source for upcoming products). From the documents, we gathered that Zune will feature a 30GB HDD, 802.11b/g wireless connectivity, an FM tuner, USB 2.0 interface and a massive 3" LCD screen. Microsoft confirmed all of those specifications today and disclosed a few more for good measure.

As previously discussed, the Zune will feature Zune-to-Zune music sharing which allows users to share full-length sample tracks of select songs, homemade recordings, playlists and pictures between devices. Shared songs can be listened to up to three times over the course of three days. Songs that you receive from other Zune users that you like can be flagged and later purchased from the Zune Marketplace.

Zune Marketplace is Microsoft's alternative to iTunes and is an all-in-one media player, store and album/video manager. Users can purchase songs one at a time or purchase a Zune Pass subscription and download as many songs as you choose for a flat fee.

Microsoft has also announced three new accessories that will be initially available for the Zune. They include the Zune Car Pack (FM tuner with car charger), Zune Home A/V Pack (AV output cable, dock, sync cable, AC adapter and wireless remote) and the Zune Travel Pack (earphones, dual connect remote, travel bag, sync cable and AC adapter).

Some fans of Apple’s iPod were a bit disappointed with the model range revamp. While Apple performed the usual updates such as improved battery life and brighter screens along with storage capacity bumps across the board, there wasn’t anything really there to make consumers go “WOW” – gapless playback doesn’t count.

However, Apple at least has two things going for it when comparing the 5.5G iPod to the Zune. Firstly, the $349 model features Toshiba’s new 1.8” 80GB hard drive which easily trumps the Zune’s meager 30GB unit. Secondly, Apple has popularity on its side. Even Microsoft’s J. Allard describes the iPod as "the Pong of digital music." The iPod faithful are a hard bunch to win over and Microsoft will have its hands full despite such added perks like the 3” screen and WiFi.

Microsoft still hasn’t announced pricing or availability for Zune, but we’ll keep you posted on the details.

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Meager 30GB?
By PrinceGaz on 9/14/2006 1:54:35 PM , Rating: 2
However, Apple at least has two things going for it when comparing the 5.5G iPod to the Zune. Firstly, the $349 model features Toshiba’s new 1.8” 80GB hard drive which easily trumps the Zune’s meager 30GB unit.

While 80GB is obviously better than 30GB, I would never call 30GB meager for music storage. If your music collection is mainly encoded at 192kbps, 30GB is enough space for about 5000 average tracks (assuming an average of 4 minutes per track). Surely 5000 tracks or about 400 CD albums of music is more than enough for most people? It certainly isn't meager at any rate.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By Brandon Hill on 9/14/2006 2:09:52 PM , Rating: 3
It's meager in the terms that Apple has been offering a 60GB drive for a year now on its 5G iPod. And now they've upped the capacity of its top model to 80GB.

And also remember, that this isn't just a music player. It also plays back video and high definition video requires a larger chunk of storage space. And there's also the fact that the device can be used as a mass storage device.

So in that sense, 30GB max on an all-in-one machine of this type going up against the dominant iPod does seem rather "meager"

RE: Meager 30GB?
By cochy on 9/14/2006 2:52:50 PM , Rating: 2
I can you watch high definition video on a 3'' screen?

RE: Meager 30GB?
By cochy on 9/14/2006 2:53:37 PM , Rating: 2
woops even with preview...

I = How

man I must be tired.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By Brandon Hill on 9/14/2006 2:55:20 PM , Rating: 2
You're right, it's only a QVGA screen.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By lemonadesoda on 9/14/2006 4:57:39 PM , Rating: 2
Please don't tell me this thing doesnt feature a video-out that you can use to drive a TV screen!

RE: Meager 30GB?
By Brandon Hill on 9/14/2006 5:02:20 PM , Rating: 2
Check out the article. Accessories:

Zune Home A/V Pack (AV output cable, dock, sync cable, AC adapter and wireless remote)

RE: Meager 30GB?
By defter on 9/15/2006 9:39:42 AM , Rating: 2
I'm 99.9% sure that Zune (or any other available media player) doesn't support HD playback or HD output.

Thus putting HD videos on media players is just waste of space.

BTW, is there USB host and USB mass storage (meaning that you don't need crappy additional software for transferring the music) functionality in Zune?

RE: Meager 30GB?
By tuteja1986 on 9/15/2006 4:29:56 AM , Rating: 2
if zune ends up being $299 then i think it will worth the cash but if it goes for $349 then you would be better off with an ipod 80GB Video. Either way i think Zune has a serious chance of winning some marketshare from apple ipod.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By c4xiayu on 9/15/2006 9:44:20 AM , Rating: 2
There is video.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By ZeeStorm on 9/20/2006 12:42:38 PM , Rating: 1
I have roughly 32GB of just Simpsons episodes. Indeed this is meager for wanting to offer so much. Now, I don't own any of these, but I'd definately buy an 80GB iPod for $50 more than this.

Not to mention, Apple's been in the business a long time, they've already experienced their share of problems (I guess?). When was the last time M$ ever made a product that doesn't need to be patched?

RE: Meager 30GB?
By kkwst2 on 9/14/2006 5:37:19 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe not meager, but I've got about 50GB of music now. Mostly from about 400 ripped CD's at bit rates that are probably overkill. But I certainly don't want to re-encode them all just to put them on my player.

Add a few gig of photos and TV episodes that I might want to catch up on, and I could certainly use the 80 gig.

I was quite surprised that they weren't even offering a 60 gig model. I'm sure it will come soon enough.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By FITCamaro on 9/15/2006 1:37:09 PM , Rating: 2
In my view 400 CDs of good music doesn't even exist. While I don't have all the music I like, I have 1.5-2GB of music.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By Montrevux on 9/15/2006 2:26:47 PM , Rating: 2
I have 2GBs of just Led Zeppelin.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By kkwst2 on 9/17/2006 5:22:59 PM , Rating: 2
That's a bit of an annoying comment. Have you listened to the millions of albums produced to make such a bold statement? Not to mention that "good" is quite subjective. Maybe there aren't 400 cd's of music that you would like, but I doubt it. As someone who is classically trained in the violin and played jazz sax for 10 years, I'll bet I'd put my ear for "good" up against yours.

Anyway, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that can find more than 30 GB worth of "good" music and have a lot more music than I do. If you want to carry around your whole collection or close to it, 30GB can get somewhat limiting.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By laok on 9/15/2006 10:14:00 AM , Rating: 2

RE: Meager 30GB?
By AstroCreep on 9/15/2006 12:44:23 PM , Rating: 2
Meager? Eh, maybe...
I rip my CDs higher than 192kbps mp3, and the quality may be even higher depending on the quality of the original CD's engineering. The end result is that most albums take up about 100MB, so that's only 10 CDs in 1GB. Yeah, 30GB will fit about 300 CDs, but I know people with massive collections.

My iPod right now sits at about 8GB used (for 84 albums), and I'm lazy and haven't even finished ripping all of my albums (about another 50 to go), so yeah 30GB would be enough for my collection, but if I were to go ahead and put movies on it, that extra 15GB or so I'd have after ripping all my music would go bye-bye very fast.

RE: Meager 30GB?
By JeffDM on 9/16/2006 12:49:26 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, because video takes a lot of space. There are even people that bother with lossless audio files, which means 90 CDs vs. 240 CDs. In a pinch, one can serve as a file transport or even be used as a temporary boot drive.

If you aren't going to bother with video, lossless or holding your entire library, then a flash-based audio player would be better.

There is a market for both hard drive and flash players. Microsoft only offering a hard drive player is kind of dumb when most of the poratble audio player market is flash-based.

By umerok on 9/14/2006 12:58:42 PM , Rating: 2
The only purpose of the integrated wireless, which was supposed to be Zune's big advantage over the iPod, is to share your music and videos with other Zune users for a whopping 3 uses? At least I can give them as many pictures of the 80GB iPod as I want!

By armagedon on 9/14/2006 1:08:51 PM , Rating: 2
Don't worry, here comes "third party" firmware 1.1...

By Puddleglum on 9/14/2006 1:45:49 PM , Rating: 3
As if anticipating third-party firmware is ever reassuring. I agree that this wireless idea is made impractical by limiting how many times you can share it.

Not that Microsoft made a bad decision, and if it's possible to transfer files.... 30GB of non-audio files that are transferable to other Zune users? I can see people transferring files like it's their TI-83 or something.

By SocrPlyr on 9/14/2006 2:32:49 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure, but that is not how i understood it. What i understood was that certain songs that are downloaded and paid for could be shared a few times under a fairuse like setting. I don't think the limitations on the number of times something can be shared applies to your own files.
Just my understanding of it.


By sdsdv10 on 9/15/2006 4:07:58 PM , Rating: 2
From Cesar Menendez, one of the official MS bloggers;

"I made a song. I own it. How come, when I wirelessly send it to a girl I want to impress, the song has 3 days/3 plays?" Good question. There currently isn't a way to sniff out what you are sending, so we wrap it all up in DRM. We can’t tell if you are sending a song from a known band or your own home recording so we default to the safety of encoding. And besides, she'll come see you three days later. . .

Here is a link;

By kkwst2 on 9/14/2006 5:42:49 PM , Rating: 3
Three uses seems pretty reasonable to decide if you like a song.

Not sure what you were expecting.

While it may not guarantee the success of the Zune, I'd be willing to bet that most future players will have some sort of wireless sharing feature built in.

Finally some good competition
By ForumMaster on 9/14/2006 12:56:31 PM , Rating: 3
finally MS makes a product that will cause appple to seriously improve the features of the ipod. i'm hoping for some version of wifi and/or blue tooth in the next gen ipods. the zune looks ok, but i don't dig the design too much. i like my ipod mini much better.

RE: Finally some good competition
By Jetster on 9/14/2006 2:30:39 PM , Rating: 2
the screen is huge, it looks to be much better to watch video on than ipod, widescreen too

RE: Finally some good competition
By Supa on 9/14/2006 10:51:11 PM , Rating: 2
The screen is 3", which is about the same size as the Nintendo gameboy screen. It is, in fact, a little bigger than ipod's 2.5".


RE: Finally some good competition
By jmunjr on 9/15/2006 3:02:29 PM , Rating: 2
So 20% is only a "little bigger"?

RE: Finally some good competition
By JeffDM on 9/16/2006 11:40:08 AM , Rating: 2
It is only "a little bigger" since I really don't think even the larger screen is enough larger to make regular video watching sufficiently comfortable to make it a daily-use feature, or for longer than a few minutes.

I don't like the look
By Randalllind on 9/14/2006 1:52:30 PM , Rating: 2
The look is cheap and ugly.

RE: I don't like the look
By SocrPlyr on 9/14/2006 2:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
somewhat agree, but what about the ipods... cheap and ugly, but with all of them you then get a sleeve to protect it and they look cheaper and uglier.

RE: I don't like the look
By arswihart on 9/14/2006 4:08:26 PM , Rating: 2
looks nice to me, i guess only using it over time will tell. What changes would you make?

I think the interface on this thing looks very sweet, nice transparency effects and custom wallpaper it looks like. I definitely like this device, and I look forward to seeing future iterations with an 80 GB HD.

As for taking pictures and videos, I think it may add too much to the size of the thing, I'd rather have it get smaller, not bigger. Lets just stick to cameras for pictures, they do a MUCH better job, and VGA movies on cameras are becoming quite high-quality as well. I'm sure someday a device like this will inevitably have a camera built-in, but at this point I think the added size is my biggest concern.

RE: I don't like the look
By bongobear on 9/14/2006 6:53:19 PM , Rating: 1
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say.

Personally when I saw the pics a while ago I thought it was just a mock up. Hopefully one of the first accessories will be a brown paper bag to hide it's butt ugliness, screen doesn't look bad though.

Wonder if they'll do a bacolite one.

Still, if it was cheap enough and came with with the aformentioned bag...

RE: I don't like the look
By RMTimeKill on 9/15/2006 9:29:15 AM , Rating: 2
I dont see what you guys are talking about, if any thing, the style looks like an iPod rip off... As you say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder... Maybe they should give a brown bag for the ipod then as well?

RE: I don't like the look
By Zandros on 9/15/2006 5:17:56 PM , Rating: 2
As opposed to the usual "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", I'd like to say beauty is in the details.

iPod ripoff? Well, it's square, have the buttons on the front and a circular, um, button? Well, that's the iPod right there.

Granted, I'd say that the full size iPod looks a bit dated after a year. Steve, where's the sex in the products?

this will be a flop!
By iamright on 9/14/2006 1:52:12 PM , Rating: 2
this will be as much of a flop as the toshiba gigabeat has been. Ipod is a household name, its like Kleenex or Skidoo or Coke. I think school kids would be embarrassed to have a non ipod DAP. People don't buy specs they buy emotion, Ipod is delivering in the emotional dept where the others are not.

RE: this will be a flop!
By SocrPlyr on 9/14/2006 2:38:16 PM , Rating: 2
agreed that Ipod is household name (sad b/c it is such a pathetic name), but at some point that just means all mp3 players are called ipods and it doesn't help apple at all. are we to that point yet? i guess we'll find out soon enough.

RE: this will be a flop!
By jmunjr on 9/15/2006 3:04:00 PM , Rating: 2
not in my houehold. Anyone who refers to an mp3 player as an ipod in my house gets a beating. We use mp3 players first made in 1999, long before ipods were around, and ours still have more and better features(in software).

RE: this will be a flop!
By NullSubroutine on 9/17/2006 12:39:40 AM , Rating: 1
not in my houehold. Anyone who refers to an mp3 player as an ipod in my house gets a beating.


e use mp3 players first made in 1999, long before ipods were around, and ours still have more and better features(in software).

i still use my rio 500 with a 32mb flash card. i just wish it could use larger sizes now.

RE: this will be a flop!
By bigdaniel on 9/15/2006 6:29:59 PM , Rating: 2
THe iPod was really revolutionary. It does what it's supposed to do really well, BUT in addition it spawned a whole market surrounding it. We got Home Theater connection kit from several vendors, car interfaces from numerous vendors, boom box docks, accessories galores... all from numerous vendors as well as Apple.

The success of Zune will be measured there. How many vendors will be building "accessories" for it. Technically it might have a superior specification than iPod (IMO, not!), but how well can it motivate the surrounding markets.

Apple iPod was not the first media player, nor the best, but it was definitely the one that did it right. By providing entryway for other vendors (Belkin, Kensington, Bose, JBL... too numerous to name, just search for it at to make money (by creating iPod compatible accessories), Apple got free advertising, and thus iPod base keep growing.

By Kevil on 9/14/2006 1:30:38 PM , Rating: 4
I'd be interested in seeing how many hours the battery gives, color screen and Wifi must seriously eat into the playback time.

RE: Battery?
By Bonrock on 9/16/2006 2:43:46 AM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure you can disable the wireless on the Zune if you want to prolong the battery life.

By Schadenfroh on 9/14/2006 12:53:38 PM , Rating: 5
I will take my PiMP player in that brown crap color please!

What it needs is a video camera
By UNCjigga on 9/14/2006 1:11:08 PM , Rating: 3
If MS is trying to promote some sort of "paradigm shift" [I HATE that phrase--so 80's but I don't know what else to say] in portable media players then they should've included a built-in camera with video capability. Seriously, how much extra cost would that add? And how many portable phones/PDAs/media devices give you a camera with a 30GB hard drive to play with?

The advantage of an integrated camera is that now you can take the whole Zune "sharing" concept to another level. Imagine you're out and about, recording clips with your Zune. You can meet up with your friends and automatically share/swap clips. Your friends can then rate these clips, and you can upload them to a Microsoft Zune portal (think rip-off of YouTube) and add comments, etc. You can even track how many people have downloaded your clip to their Zune a-la social networking. MS can then run contests and other viral campaigns to increase the amount of user-submitted content. Now THAT would be pretty cool.

By Brandon Hill on 9/14/2006 1:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
Zune 2.0? :-)

Price and battery?
By kitchme on 9/14/2006 3:12:18 PM , Rating: 2
Personally, I think it looks good. Very clean and minimalistic design with large screen. If the price is decent (at least competitive to iPods similar model), I think they've got a winner here. They will definitely take a few percent from Apple's market share. With the new iPod revisions, I'd definitely prefer getting Zune (weird name), that is if the price is right.

RE: Price and battery?
By gentryfunk on 9/14/2006 6:48:39 PM , Rating: 2
I agree...I like the size of the screen compared to the iPod....I was disappointed with the recent iPod annoucement....I really think Apple is losing its touch; I would buy a unit similar to the Zune if Apple produced it....since I am Mac-centric, the Zune is just not something I can use....but I do think it might sell very well.

Looks good
By jazzboy on 9/14/2006 3:41:25 PM , Rating: 2
All looking very nice. Think this will be a good challenge to the ipod.

Although I agree with the person a couple of posts up that the "ipod" is a household name. Just recently I visited a friend who'd bought himself a creative zen and calls it an ipod! I said to him that it's a zen that he has and his response was like "whatever, I just know it as in ipod".

On the other hand, Microsoft is a well known brand so that may well give them a little advantage in the non-ipod market.

RE: Looks good
By kibets on 9/14/2006 4:25:35 PM , Rating: 2
Count me in...

I've been waiting for Zune and ended up getting a Mini Player but will get a Brown Zune when they are out too.

3 Uses? right...
By Tupolev22m on 9/14/2006 11:16:56 PM , Rating: 2
How long before theres a hacked firmware which disables the whole "3 uses" shenanigans?

RE: 3 Uses? right...
By Naviblue on 9/15/2006 9:56:42 AM , Rating: 2
No way, I'm waiting to see the first pop-up ad on this sucker!

Zune has an FM tuner? Zune WINS!
By Suomynona on 9/15/2006 4:48:33 AM , Rating: 2
Read title...nuff said.

By inthell on 9/15/2006 2:44:35 PM , Rating: 2
depends how well it works, my mp3 player has a fm tuner but it sucks.

Looks pretty nice
By MonkeyPaw on 9/14/2006 1:47:05 PM , Rating: 2
Looks good to me, I guess. The GUI looks MCE-like, which should be good enough for revision 1. Does it come with the girl, too? I don't know if I'd want to walk into the East River to get her, though. ;)

Pricing and marketing will be the key. I suspect MS will match the iPod pricing (despite the extras) and will lay down a big ad campaign this holiday season. We might have more Apple, Zune, and Vista commercials than political ads this winter. I guess that's a good thing?

My name is MonkeyPaw, and I approve this message.

seems like a nice machine
By Moishe on 9/14/2006 1:49:25 PM , Rating: 2
I know everyone hates MS, but it's a stylish player with a nice screen. The features aren't perfect, but they're as good as the ipod. If the price is right, I think it'll sell.

Personally, I'll likely never buy a player for any price over $99 because I've done just fine with cheap $40 or less players. I want small portable music with SD slots more than I want a huge HDD player with a screen.

By Lonyo on 9/14/2006 1:53:40 PM , Rating: 2
Toshiba are very happy at least.

By shantiwuvstevin on 9/15/2006 2:16:39 AM , Rating: 2
Reguardless of what anybody may say to bash this product, it works like, and well, with Windows and since most people have a Windows PC I think the Zune will give the iPod a run for its money. Microsoft is just doing what it did back in the early days when it let Apple get everyone used to a windows interface and then jump in and dominate with a more appealing GUI. I saw a video of it on youTube and I think it rocks compared to the iPod. I never found portable Mp3 players appealing but I might have to go with this one. (Note: Writer is not affiliated w/M$)

By mikepers on 9/15/2006 1:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
Let's face it, for music, when considering your average mass market user, anything over 1-2GB is overkill and is just a checkbox. Most people barely dent the space on these things. (granted video makes space more relevant but even then, once you're in the 10's of GB's who cares)

The Zune looks as good as any other device out there. Big screen is nice. Wonder how it affects battery life.

FM tuner is useful.

Wifi to play someone elses songs? Just a gimmick. If I can't load songs to the device via wi-fi that's lame.

Price will matter.

They all look the same
By jmunjr on 9/15/2006 3:12:40 PM , Rating: 2
It cracks me up how people say this thing looks ugly. It looks just like an ipod. Sure, it is easy to see the differences, but they more or less look the same. They are both rectangulat. both have round/circular input devices. both have buttons. both have rectangular screens.

Wow, the Zune is so ugly

By tacoburrito on 9/15/2006 3:27:22 PM , Rating: 2
In such a crowded portable device market headed by Apple, I'm surprise MS didn't just buy out Sansa and iRiver, and then slap the MS insignia on their devices.

Sansa and iRiver have put out very good but competitive products to Apple's Ipod, and they have already carved out a niche market. In the long run, it will be cheaper for MS to just buyout those 2 companies.

By Brandon256 on 9/15/2006 11:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
Microsoft's Zune Won't Play Protected Windows Media according to this link. Leave to M$ and things are better already....

ITBS (It's the brown, stupid...)
By JeffDM on 9/16/2006 12:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
I think the black and white Zunes look better than most other portable media players. But the monochrome brown plastic looks cheap. Brown generally isn't a very popular color, except with materials that have nice texture and variations such as with leather and wood.

By bigdaniel on 9/18/2006 4:26:17 AM , Rating: 2
So Toshiba makes the Zune player for Microsoft. And it makes the hard drive for both the Zune and iPods. Man, talk about having it both ways!.

Day late, Dollar short.
By Methusela on 9/14/06, Rating: -1
RE: Day late, Dollar short.
By umerok on 9/14/2006 1:00:00 PM , Rating: 3
I can tell this is a shop, I can see the pixels and I've seen a few shops in my day.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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