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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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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.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis
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