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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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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?

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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