(c) microsoftToday Microsoft officially announced “Zune,” their new 30 GB portable multimedia player which is set to directly compete with Apple’s iPod. The similarities between the Zune and the iPod are, of course, numerous. The Zune will have its own music download service, the Zune Marketplace, which will attempt to counter iTunes. Zune will show photos and play music (AAC, MP3, WMA) and video (MPEG-4, WMV, H.264). It also includes a built-in FM tuner. It has a bigger screen than the iPod but otherwise looks very similar, although it’s a bit larger. There’s no word on battery life, price, or a release date, but it comes in three colors: white, black, and (oddly enough) brown.

What makes Zune unique in the crowded portable audio field is its music sharing ability. Zune includes 802.11b wireless to communicate with other “Zunes” (Zune? Zunii?) in the vicinity. Users can transfer photos wirelessly or share songs, which are, of course, limited in usage. The traded songs can be played up to three times in three days, but the idea is to let people experience new music and then tag the songs for purchase and download when the user syncs the player with his computer.

What I like about it is:

  1. It’s Microsoft and not Apple. It uses Windows Media Player instead of iTunes, and should have good Xbox 360 integration.
  2. The navigation and menu system looks very intuitive, and probably will be if it’s anything like Microsoft’s last portable media center software.
  3. The menus are all customizable and the “Now Playing” screen prominently displays album art full-screen.
  4. The large screen is nice, and it has TV-out for playing movies on an even bigger screen.

What I don’t like about it is:

  1. It might be a bit clunky. The exact dimensions haven’t been released yet though, so the jury’s still out.
  2. The battery’s probably not user-replaceable. I don’t know why companies do this…Sure, it saves a bit of room and is probably a bit cheaper to produce, but it’s impractical for the device to be a brick once its battery can no longer hold a charge.
  3. Only 30 GB? And it’ll probably be pretty expensive.
  4. A built-in speaker would be nice for times when you need a quick music “fix” but don’t want to mess with external speakers or headphones.
  5. No native AVI/DivX support. 🙁

Time will tell as to whether or not this will steal any market share from the iPod, but I certainly hope it does. And I’ll probably be getting one, just to help support little ole’ Microsoft.

11 thoughts on “zune-tastical

  1. A few things.

    1. I am sure that even though there is no native DivX or AVI support, this device will be expandable (to a much greater extent than any mac [ie iPod] hardware). I have been learning a bit about current politics in Microsoft, and it seems like there are a lot of software engineers running the show. Therefore, the language of the Zune will more than likely be one that allows custom codecs or even programs if a person knows the interface.
    2. Wireless-B option sounds pretty cool. Think it will be able to access the internet in hotzones?
    3. (or 2.b.) Wonder how long its going to be before the government tries to regulate the air traffic between two wirelessly connected devices?
    4. I think the brown one was my favorite of the bunch. Gives people a bit wider selection than apple does.
    5. Doesn’t look too sturdy.
    6. This device doesnt look any larger than a normal iPod. Definitely larger than the nano, but if you think about all of the features that this incorportaes (wireless, fm tuner, huge display, 30gb hd, usw..) i am very impressed with the thinness.

  2. 1. Almost any product with an upgradable firmware can have custom stuff written for it. Even the iPod has third-party software available. Regardless, it’s always nice to have more functionality built-in originally.
    2. Nope, no Internet (unless, again, a third-party company comes up with an option). But they’ve hinted at more abilities over time.
    3. I don’t think they will, unless we start moving from Wi-Fi to an already regulated spectrum.
    4. They say the brown looks better in person.
    5. Why don’t you think it looks sturdy? People who have handled it say it feels solid.
    6. Again, people who have handled it say the weight and size is a bit bigger than a 60 GB iPod…while the iPod is in its protective hard case. It still shouldn’t be too big though.
    Probably the biggest “suck” here is that it might cost more than the 80 GB iPod, which would be far too few GB for such a price.

  3. i already have an ipod, so this is kind of moot for me, but, given the choice, i would probably prefer something with windows software as opposed to all this lame mac stuff i have to deal with.

    the size difference (as mentioned in the next post) should be negligible.

    customizable menus are definitely a plus. …as far as full-screen album art? i just find the album art thumbnails on my ipod to be annoying. full screen could be completely different… or just more fully annoying. also, if the art is full screen, then how are you going to tell what song you are listening to, or what volume it is at, or how far along the song is? it seems like it would be kind of annoying for the album art to expand or collapse every time you want to adjust something.

    on a side note, i think its curious that the government hasn’t expressed in regulating wi-fi. i dont think they should, but i cant think of any logical reasons that include broadcast-media under public regulation but not wi-fi (at least insofar as them both using “public” airwaves).

  4. Have you looked at the pictures? The album art is nearly full-screen but has the progress bar, title, artist, etc. at the bottom. I suppose it’s preference, but my Pocket PC will display large album art and it looks great; I love it.

  5. Here’s the reason that an ex-marine intel guy that came into best buy told me why the governement allows wireless to be for the most part unregulated:

    First, and foremost: They regulate all radio frequencies, save 5 or 6. 2.4ghz, 5.8ghz, 13something, something in the 40s, and 802.11 (i only know i got the first 2 and the last one right). This is actually an extremely strict standard, and in many developing nations (he gave the example of south korea), the government only regulates a handful of frequencies. The guy that came into BB said that broadband wireless internet is accessible almost everywhere, and that over 60% of households utilize it. Compared to under 20% of american households that have wireless networks on routers [again, figures some weird old guy gave me].

    Secondly: The radio signals that the government allows free use of give crap for range. The largest range is the lower frequency, so the 2.4ghz phones actually have the largest range, but the higher frequency allows for more data to be sent in the same amounts of time; 802.11 for better data rate but lower range. However, given enough power, scientists (in labs [from mountain top{to another mountain top}]) have transmitted 802.11g signal over a distance of 60 miles, and are about to try for 120 miles in the near future. (However, they used a few lower frequencies [that are monitored] to resonate with the 802.11 to amplify it, make it resonate with the remote tower, and then took away the lower frequencies to where it was “only” the 802.11g.)

    Third: There is a very very large gap in the spectrum of radio signals that gets absorbed by gasses in the atmosphere. It starts around 20ghz, peaks at 60ghz (which he said was Nitrogen), and fades down til around 120 ghz. He said a distance on a 60ghz signal was 20ish feet.

    However, all heresay put aside, with this paranoid government, i doubt it will be long before they try for the first time, and it wont be too much longer before they succeed.

  6. actually, no, i didnt look at the pictures. i just read where somebody wrote that the zune “displays album art full-screen.”

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