Redmond (WA) - Microsoft today introduced what the company hopes will challenge the market dominance of Apple's Ipod. Zune is the first media player in this segment to offer Wi-Fi connectivity and carries a name that will allow Microsoft to create a competing brand and product family.
"The digital music entertainment revolution is just beginning. With Zune, we are not simply delivering a portable device, we are introducing a new platform that helps bring artists closer to their audiences and helps people find new music and develop new social connections."
J Allard, vice president for design and development at Microsoft and the executive who leads the firm's move into the portable audio arena, took the wraps off the long awaited Zune this Thursday morning. Perhaps intentionally, Zune's features have been known for quite a while and Microsoft revealed few surprises.
Zune, built by Toshiba, will be offered in three colors - white, black and perhaps not the prettiest brown. It has a 1.8" 30 GB hard drive, a 3" LCD, an integrated and RDBS-capable FM tuner, an USB 2.0 port and Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) support. As expected, Microsoft will be promoting wireless connectivity as the Zune's unique feature: "Designed around the principles of sharing, discovery and community, Zune will create new ways for consumers to connect and share entertainment experiences," the firm said. "The Zune experience centers around connection - connection to your library, connection to friends, connection to community and connection to other devices."
"Sharing" content will be enabled in two different ways. First, users can send photos or promotional copies of songs from one to other device. Second, users can stream their music from one Zune to another via Wi-Fi: This wireless "Zune-to-Zune sharing" or "Djing" lets consumers stream share full-length sample tracks of select songs, homemade recordings, playlists or pictures with friends between Zune devices. However, songs can only be streamed up to three times over three days. After that, users will need to purchase that song from the "Zune Marketplace," which, according to Microsoft, will offer more then one million different songs at launch.
Microsoft promises that songs from existing music, picture and video libraries can be "easily" imported into Zune. New music can be purchased track by track or via a flat fee that provides access to an unlimited number of downloads. Pricing information has not been released, but the company mentioned that the service will work with Microsoft's "Points" program so users can purchase music online without a credit card.
Here's a picture of what the Zune will most likely look like:
I think I'll pass; the world of ripped CDs on a real PC still works for me.