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Microsoft ready to take a second stab at Apple's iPod

While Apple may be basking in the glow of its 100 millionth sold iPod, Microsoft is quickly working behind the scenes on its Zune portable media player. Microsoft has modest expectations from the player and is expecting for it to pass the one million shipped mark by June 2007.

For the time being, the first generation will soon get two new colors to add the existing White, Brown and Black. The first color is Baby Pink. Baby Pink will be a few shades lighter than the 100 special edition hot pink Zunes that were floating around shortly after launch. According to the Zune team, only 100,000 will be produced. A second new color, Watermelon Red, will be released sometime after Baby Pink.

Now for the really interesting information -- a Zune Scene editor ran into a Microsoft Zune engineer recently and was able to get the low-down on two upcoming Zune products.

First up is Zune 2.0. The Zune 2.0 will be similar in design to the original Zune but will be slightly thinner and will come with a larger HDD. The second new Zune is the highly-anticipated "Flash Zune." A flash-based Zune player is exactly what Microsoft needs to compete with Apple's popular Nano and Shuffle, so it comes as no surprise that the Flash Zune is in the pipeline.

According to the Microsoft employee, the Flash Zune measures 3" x 1.25" x 0.25" vs.  4.4" x 2.4" x .58" for the original Zune and 3.5" x 1.6" x .25" for the 2G iPod Nano. The flash player will have integrated WiFi and will be available in capacities equal to or greater than what Apple currently offers with the 2G Nano.

Also of note is that 2.4 million Zunes will be manufactured during calendar year 2007 and 75% of those will be of the new Flash Zune. Microsoft is also said to be constructing a new facility in Dao Min China to handle increased production.

Updated 4/13/2007: Amazon is now listing the Pink Zune in stock now for $249.99.

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Lessons Learnt?
By kelmon on 4/11/2007 10:15:33 AM , Rating: 5
This has to be the big question - has Microsoft learnt from its mistakes with the first model in order to make something that people will buy? After having lost their minds with all this "social networking" (a term that makes me shudder along with other like Web 2.0 and all the other buzzwords doing the rounds) and a pointless WiFi function, will they be addressing the flaws with the original player? While the original wasn't the most attractive PMP on the planet it's physical appearance wasn't as much of an issue as generally missing or badly conceived features. If they can sort this out (adding games, for example, would be a step forwards along with wireless syncing) then the Zune 2.0 stands a chance else it will disappear into obscurity along with the first model.

To be honest I remain convinced that a decent firmware update to the first model would help a lot more than a different appearance.

RE: Lessons Learnt?
By Mitch101 on 4/11/2007 10:35:54 AM , Rating: 2
What I heard on the WiFi is that it allows you to play back your tunes through an XBOX 360 without cables which is most probably located close to your stereo.

Time will tell. Im not anti-apple on the ipod but I am on thier software methods not being more open to other services.

Lets also hope Zune 2.0 is less restrictive in video formats and better at converting video for use on the new units.

RE: Lessons Learnt?
By kelmon on 4/11/2007 11:09:45 AM , Rating: 3
You know, I was thinking about things that I'd want a WiFi function on a Zune to do (or any other player for that matter) and streaming music to my stereo wasn't one but that's not bad. Remove the need for a 360 (just an adaptor like the Roko SoundBridge would do) and that would be a genuinely useful function. Nice one.

RE: Lessons Learnt?
By Omega215D on 4/11/2007 1:36:53 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe MS should take a look at the SanDisk Sansa Connect and it's use of WiFi.

RE: Lessons Learnt?
By PandaBear on 4/11/2007 1:57:58 PM , Rating: 2
As long as they let people put a bit torrent client in there, WiFi is useful, otherwise not.

RE: Lessons Learnt?
By oTAL on 4/11/2007 3:42:52 PM , Rating: 2
I used to share your view on iTunes... until recently. You do know they now sell DRM free music and they allow you to upgrade the music you bought to be DRMless (I like this word =p). You can't really ask for more.
On the other hand I'm not really sure how many players support AAC and I still think there is better hardware (mp3 players) around.

RE: Lessons Learnt?
By KTLA on 4/11/2007 7:09:48 PM , Rating: 3
That's not so much an iTunes thing as an EMI thing. Apple just sells EMI product, as does Zune, so it's highly unlikely that the Zune store won't sell the exact same DRM-less content.

By oTAL on 4/11/2007 3:45:05 PM , Rating: 3
Does this have a mic?
Cause if it does... "In Soviet Russia Zune listens to YOU!"

I know it was lame... but it's for old times sake. =)

RE: Mic?
By Myrandex on 4/11/2007 5:38:55 PM , Rating: 1
I miss these from old times :)

Worldwide Launch
By NagoyaX on 4/13/2007 12:22:54 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know bout most of the people posting right now, but I live in Canada and me and a couple of friends are getting kinda pissed cause we don't know when they will launch the product up here. In fact MS has not said anything about Canada which is kind of odd because most products have the same launch time in the States as Canada.

And I really really want the dam Zune. anyone have any info about a Canada launch date?

RE: Worldwide Launch
By Crowbar77 on 4/13/2007 1:12:04 PM , Rating: 2
Well I believe the delay has something to do with Canada's different copyright laws. They said a while back don't expect it until at least spring 2007. My guess is we'll get it when the new zunes are released, maybe november?

By Vergil117 on 4/13/2007 4:10:44 PM , Rating: 2
If the zune 2.0 gets native audio and video format support with formats such as FLAC & ogg, I'll get one.

By stevel114 on 4/13/2007 7:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
Fix the problems with the Zune first before making another model. I have a Zune, and if I could use it with Napster or another music provider that would be a step in the right direction. The device is good, the infrastructure around it sucks.

Zune is dead
By encryptkeeper2 on 4/11/07, Rating: -1
RE: Zune is dead
By Spyvie on 4/11/2007 2:03:27 PM , Rating: 4
No, 100 million sold means what ever percentage that are still functioning are in "customers hands"

RE: Zune is dead
By Snuffalufagus on 4/11/2007 3:50:12 PM , Rating: 5
I wonder what the number of dead iPods is out of the 100 million sold. I've heard from several people that they are on their third or fourth iPod/shuffle. It's pretty sad that they are willing to repeatedly buy something that expensive knowing it is almost a 'disposable' item.

RE: Zune is dead
By kelmon on 4/12/2007 2:32:47 AM , Rating: 2
I highly expect that many iPod owners have bought more than 1 iPod but the reason for this may simply be the advances made over the years and different uses. For example, I bought the current 80GB version last year and while it works great for travelling I wouldn't dream of taking it running - that's something where a Shuffle or even Nano would be more appropriate.

The other thing is that while it has been noted that iPods tend to die, do we have reason to believe that this phenomenon is restricted to iPods or is it just that this is easier to report?

RE: Zune is dead
By oTAL on 4/13/2007 2:59:01 PM , Rating: 3
It's pretty sad that they are willing to repeatedly buy something that expensive knowing it is almost a 'disposable' item.

I know what you mean and I actually agree that there is better value from other MP3 players.
With that being said I've got to say I totally disagree with your argument, and the reason is simple... Couldn't the same thing be said about a computer? Desktop computers, laptops and a lot of consumer electronics have turned into disposable items. People don't really mind it since when they get a new one it is always so much better than the one they owned before...

RE: Zune is dead
By InsaneScientist on 4/13/2007 3:24:05 PM , Rating: 3
I'm on my 4th iPod nano. (1st gen, 4GB, if anyone cares...)

To at least partially answer your question...

iPods are the "in" thing to have for music players, and if someone asks for an MP3 player for Christmas, or a birthday, or some other event where you might give and get presents in your culture, you're likely to get an iPod (if someone can scrape together the money for one)

That's how I got mine... I got it for Christmas. Now, as for how I'm on my 4th... well, I certainly wouldn't be on my 4th if I had to pay $250 for each of them. That's just rediculous.

Apple pretty much has a no questions asked warranty (I don't know if that's policy or not, but that's what happens in practice). You take the thing in, tell them it's not working, they plug it in to check, and you walk out with a new one.
I actually haven't had too many problems with iPods besides discovering that the update software wasn't compatible with Server 2003 (one replacement), then discovering that it wasn't compatible with whatever the beta version of Vista at that time was (2nd replacement), and finally, I had to pull my younger brother out of some nasty waves in the ocean, and sorta forgot before I went in that my cell phone and iPod were in my pocket (not that he isn't worth it)... hence, 3rd replacement - 4th iPod. :-P

RE: Zune is dead
By tigen on 4/13/2007 5:14:09 PM , Rating: 2
Are you 12 years old or what?

RE: Zune is dead
By xsilver on 4/14/2007 3:41:47 AM , Rating: 2
what is that meant to mean exactly?
are you criticizing for him not taking care of the ipods?
my question would actually be why you would get a replacement if you couldnt install it in server '03 or vista - shouldnt they say, "thats your problem" use OSX or Xp and you're fine...

the next problem is that the 1 year warranty actually goes by quickly if you're planning to keep it for 5 years or so and the battery is pretty much guaranteed not to last that time; and if you're lucky the HDD will die too.

there is a culture where people dont quite understand the alternative mp3 players available and when someone tries to buy an mp3 player for someone its safer to get an ipod. Dont want to make timmy cry when he sees that he has a superior device but god forbid has a microsoft or sony logo instead of apple.

RE: Zune is dead
By InsaneScientist on 4/14/2007 6:31:55 AM , Rating: 2
what is that meant to mean exactly?

I'd like to know the answer to that, too...

To answer his question, though: no, I am not.

my question would actually be why you would get a replacement if you couldnt install it in server '03 or vista - shouldnt they say, "thats your problem" use OSX or Xp and you're fine...

My apologies... I didn't explain well.
The software updater for the iPod crashed partway through the update process, rendering the thing completely unusable, as the operating system on the iPod itself was rather corrupted.
I definately did learn my lesson, though, and started using XP to update the thing. >_<

the next problem is that the 1 year warranty actually goes by quickly if you're planning to keep it for 5 years or so and the battery is pretty much guaranteed not to last that time; and if you're lucky the HDD will die too.

Definately... I do wish I had something else, but it's what I was given, and it works... for now.

RE: Zune is dead
By Axbattler on 4/14/2007 11:39:05 AM , Rating: 2
However, there is also a 'culture' of criticising whatever is popular. The iPod is not the perfect player for everyone. But, it may well be the best match for many - especially in the later iterations. It took them 5.5 gen to do it, but they now provide gapless support, something many players still don't. If someone's need include a line-out, the iPod would be one of the short listed. If someone wants a player that is >60GB, then the iPod would be one of the few listed. And sound wise, they've come a pretty long way too.

Now their battery life is pretty average, there are better screens out there, and there is no radio unless you are willing to shell out the extras. Just as there are other positives, there are other negatives too. It comes down to how people 'weight' those attributes. Now granted, some people simply go for the 'iPod' for the 'cool' factor, but it would be wrong to assume that is the only reason people go for the iPod. If it's true that the iPod is often regarded as the 'default' MP3 player, I do believe that they are no worse than any other player for that.

Having said that, I will be looking at the evolution of Zune closely. It usually takes a few iterations, but MS has shown to be capable of providing with valid alternatives.

RE: Zune is dead
By bkm32 on 4/13/2007 3:26:34 PM , Rating: 3
X360 Users are doing the same thing.

RE: Zune is dead
By IamTHEsnake on 4/15/2007 3:42:48 PM , Rating: 2
To all you extreme ipod pessimists, you'll be happy to hear that to this day I still use a working, 4th gen ipod. I was one of the early adopters of the 4g ipod and I have used it heavily since I commute to school/work everyday. I have enjoyed countless hours of music with out issue. While these days the battery life is no where near exceptional, it is still able to do the job.

The ipod was one of the best investments in pocket gadgetry that I have ever made. So to those who like to knock on apple's ipod with over-stated and naive comments, I would like to add one final point to this matter. As with anything, 95% of the time the only people that you will hear voicing their frustrations are those who are NOT happy. This fact naturally infers that just about everyone else IS happy, has no problems, and does not come to sites such as this one to whine and complain about a broken ipod. I am aware that ipods do breakdown every once in a while,, but it is no different than any other synthetic man-made product ever made.

"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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