answer to Apple's popular iPod family of players was first launched in
mid-November 2006. The $249 player promised
to change the way we socialize with portable audio devices while at the same
time offering the Zune Marketplace which is Microsoft's equivalent to iTunes.
original Zune came in three colors (white, black and brown) and featured a 30GB
HDD, 4" color screen, built-in FM tuner and WiFi connectivity for
"3-day-or-3-play" wireless music sharing. At launch, Microsoft also
made available 100
limited edition hot pink Zunes which quickly made the rounds on eBay for
insane prices. Recently, Microsoft added a fourth official color to the Zune
Apple is already celebrating
100 million iPods sold nearly six years into its initial launch, Microsoft
has more sedate figures for its Zune. Microsoft expects to top the one million mark by
next month and is right now holding on to roughly 2.4% of the MP3 player
market compared to 73.7%, 9% and 3.3% for Apple, SanDisk and Creative
respectively -- all of which have flash-based players in their lineups.
Microsoft may be falling behind in the portable media player
market, but that isn't stopping the company from building
a new manufacturing plant in China to produce its Zune. The plant will
produce a second generation HDD-based Zune and the long-rumored flash-based
second generation HDD-based Zune will be both smaller and lighter than the
Toshiba-sourced first generation model. The new Zune will be new-from-the-ground-up
with Microsoft playing a major role in the design. "There are definitely
some cost efficiencies, but the more important thing from our perspective is
the flexibility and control we have in creating a device from scratch and
making it down to the last component what we want it to be," said Jason
Reindorp, marketing director for the Zune.
Microsoft is also hard at work on a flash-based Zune to take
on the iPod Nano. Flash-based players make up an overwhelming majority of Apple
iPod sales, so Microsoft would be remiss not to follow suit. Microsoft will likely
target the Nano as far as size and weight is concerned. Also expect maximum
storage capacities of at least 8GB (as seen with current iPod Nanos). A 16GB
model shouldn’t be ruled out considering fast-dropping NAND flash prices.