Today 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:
- It’s Microsoft and not Apple. It uses Windows Media Player instead of iTunes, and should have good Xbox 360 integration.
- The navigation and menu system looks very intuitive, and probably will be if it’s anything like Microsoft’s last portable media center software.
- The menus are all customizable and the “Now Playing” screen prominently displays album art full-screen.
- 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:
- It might be a bit clunky. The exact dimensions haven’t been released yet though, so the jury’s still out.
- 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.
- Only 30 GB? And it’ll probably be pretty expensive.
- 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.
- 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.