Saturday, July 22, 2006

Microsoft finally confirms iPod rival, Zune

It's official, Microsoft has finally confirmed that it will be launching 'Zune', it's much-speculated about iPod competitor. They had recently quite adamantly denied any plans to develop such a player.

Reports say that the player will be hard-drive based, and will feature extensive Wi-Fi technology, allowing Zune users to do things like recommend music to each other, view each other's playlists and purchase music via Wi-Fi directly to the Zune.

These features, to be honest, sound pretty cool. Apparently the guy running the project is the same guy who headed the XBox project, and to be honest, he did a pretty good job of it. It does look like Microsoft is pushing in the right direction in order to offer a true iPod competitor, but there are still a couple of problems.

Firstly, Microsoft really does lack experience in the consumer electronics department. Many of its 'ideas' seem cool, but when implemented, generate far more initial buzz than they do demand. Take, for example, the recently release 'Ultra-Mobile PCs', which I wrote about in this post. Lots of hype. Very little effect when released.

The problem I think, is that Microsoft honestly doesn't seem to fully understand the concept of the end-user experience, unlike say, Apple. Although to be fair, the XBox did seem to get it right - maybe they can continue with this momentum. Though if this is the case, I don't understand why they don't just market the XBox name as well. It's just about the only Microsoft product that can match the iPod in the 'cool' department.

Finally, if the Zune is to be paired with the Microsoft/MTV Urge service, I don't know how well that will go down. Why? Because Urge doesn't let you keep the songs you purchase; instead you are just granted the right to listen to the ones you 'buy' on a subscription basis. You don't technically own what you buy from it, unlike say, things you buy from the iTunes Music Store.

Either way, Apple probably needs to unveil some new iPod innovations at the WWDC in order to counterbalance this report from Microsoft. With the Nike+iPod sports kit, it does seem like they're pushing in the direction of Wi-Fi in iPods, which would be awesome. Now it's just a waiting game to see what both Microsoft and Apple do.

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