According to a report from Dow Jones’ MarketWatch,
Microsoft submitted a filing to the FCC on Monday seeking approval for a
prototype wireless device that could be used to talk over the Internet. Microsoft’s
filing labeled the device has having the purpose of “consumer broadband access
and networking,” through the use of OFDM for wireless communication.
Although the FCC filing does not specifically name the
wireless device as a member of the Zune family, analysts and rumormongers
suspect that Microsoft’s music player has a part to play in this filing. Analyst
Rob Enderle said the filing seems to indicate “an internet device or a mobile
VoIP phone,” that “certainly could be a Zune derivative product.”
Earlier in the month, CrunchGear
kicked off the rumors of a Zune phone that will work with Zune Marketplace and
be able to connect with the Xbox 360 to access Xbox Live Marketplace content
for downloaded movies on the go. The device will not make use of Windows
Mobile, but rather the more consumer-friendly Zune interface and could see
store shelves as early as this December. Gizmodo
claimed to have confirmed the story with its own sources, adding that the
device may not have a touch-screen like the one on Apple’s iPod.
Unlike Apple’s phone offering, Microsoft does not appear to
be making a device that uses traditional cellular carrier networks, which would
put the software giant in a position of disadvantage when dealing with major
carriers. Instead, its choice to go with OFDM could be a hint towards WiMAX.
Sprint Nextel have already announced plans to create a WiMAX network that will
offer speeds between 2Mbps and 4Mbps -- speeds perfectly able to handle streaming
of large files. The addition of WiMAX would help solve one Zune’s current
shortcomings: the range of Wi-Fi doesn’t allow for a significant range to make
sharing worthwhile. WiMAX could extend the sharing capabilities from
close-range to international.
Following news of the FCC filing, CrunchGear goes
out on a limb to say that Microsoft could be announcing this product before
March 17, with a possible launch sometime in May, supposedly before Apple’s iPhone.
The unnamed source of the story also says that such a device has been in the works
at Microsoft for a while, but the idea of branding it as a Zune came as a
recent decision as a response to the iPhone.
While the details are still belong in the rumor mill,
Microsoft’s work on a Zune phone certainly isn’t fiction. Last September, Zune
marketing manager Chris Stephenson responded
to a reporter’s question about such a product by saying, “There is a possibility
for a Zune phone,” and “the entire Zune platform and brand is about a family of
devices. So to the degree that phones and other products exist in the family
going forward, absolutely, that's definitely where this is all going.”
Upon a later question from another reporter, Stephenson
reiterated, “We don't have any specifics to announce on that. I think what I
was saying is that a Zune phone is definitely part of the future of this brand.”