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Friday, July 21, 2006
More Rumors on Microsoft's iPod Device Emerge

Microsoft seems to enjoy the buzz around its upcoming Microsoft-branded portable media player, as more rumors and details are now surfacing on the device, possibly code-named "Zune."

The rumors on the Microsoft "iPod killer" no doubt is the hottest story on the block. And as long as Microsoft is keeping silent about its plans, unofficial word that the Redmond, Washington, company was gearing up to market a hand-held digital music and movie player in time for the Christmas shopping season remain.

"The stories you are seeing are based on speculation and rumors and, as such, we didn't participate," Microsoft said in a two-sentence release last week. "We don't have anything to announce at this time."

News reports cited unnamed entertainment industry executives that contended they were briefed this week on a Microsoft plan to go head-to-head with Apple's market leading iPod player and iTunes online music store duo.

The entire initiative falls under the name "Project Argo," and insiders believe Microsoft is working on at least two portable players. Zune, which first surfaced in June, is believed to be the iPod-like device that would include wireless connectivity in a design very reminiscent of the Apple iPod.

Sources have confirmed to the BetaNews website that a second player exists, known by the code-name "Pyxis.

The Microsoft device would do what the iPod can't: allow users to wirelessly download music, according to executives quoted.

Microsoft is reportedly aiming to capture a significant percentage of the iPod market, a goal that will be assisted by heavy advertising beginning in the fall. Driving the project will be the Xbox team and philosophy, according to earlier reports.

Speculation has focused on WiFi connectivity of the new device. Latest sources have also pointed to those capabilities, but there are limitations to the experience. Sharing can only happen between a limited number of different people within a WiFi range, and the experience centers around streaming content. If a user wants to purchase shared material, tracks can be bookmarked and later purchased when the device is synched to the computer.

According to the sources, the device will offer 30GB of storage, though it will deliver the "same pricing, look and feel as the 60GB iPod". That would suggest a retail price of $399, the price point for the high-end iPod. In terms of outward look, recent information points to three different colors, and a duotone approach on each. A scroll wheel will sit beneath an oversize screen, and menu options will include "Music," "Video," "Pictures," "Community," "Extras," and "Settings". Wireless synchronization with the PC will not be available in the upcoming launch, scheduled for November in the United States. A global launch will begin next year, starting with U.K and Canada, according to the sources and materials.

Microsoft has negotiated with record companies and television studios for permission to sell their music and video offerings through an online store similar to iTunes.

Microsoft's newer ecosystem will be "incompatible with other Windows Media services," placing the focus squarely on one device, and one jukebox and store.

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