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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.

"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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