Zune - Creating "music" social networks

Zune - Creating "music" social networks

Summary: Over the past few days some interesting details about Microsoft's Zune player has emerged. The most interesting feature - the ability to be your own DJ and create mobile social network "pockets"


Over the last few days some interesting details about Microsoft's Zune player has emerged.

First, the Zune player will be manufactured by Toshiba.  This was discovered when documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission were uncovered. These documents bring to light some of the more interesting and unique features of the Zune.

First of all, it appears that Zune owners will be able to set themselves up as wireless DJs by streaming music to up to four other Zunes by using the built-in WiFi capability.  This means that with the DJ setting switched on, a group of Zune owners will be able to create a mobile social network "pocket" around themselves.  Users will also be able to send and receive photos, along with promotional copies of songs, albums and playlists.  This is a very interesting direction for portable media players to go in, and, if it takes off, is certain to have an effect on how we listen to (and receive) music.  There's a lot of emphasis on finding nearby devices, sending requests to join a DJ group and accepting or rejecting requests.  These real-world social network pockets are certainly a new and different way of thinking about how we interact as we listen to tracks, and I'm certain that Microsoft won't miss a beat taking this social network idea further into technologies such as Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Spaces.

Also, according to the filing documents, the Zune will support both 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards, and will feature a 3 inch TFT screen, 30GB hard drive, FM tuner and a USB 2.0 connection.  Microsoft has also announced that the Zune will come with preloaded music provided by EMI.

The documents also refer to the device and service alternately as Zune and by two code names; Argo and Pyxis.

OK, time for some gazing into the crystal ball.  Here are some of my predictions:

  • Zune probably won't work on a Mac
  • Zune will most likely be based around the PlaysForSure DRM scheme
  • You'll almost definitely be tied to Windows Media Player
  • The device will almost certainly be based around some form of Mobile Windows platform
  • Likely price will be around $250 - 299 (to compete with the iPod)
  • Battery life must surely be an issue - a big screen and WiFi are going to put a demand on the battery
  • Microsoft and Toshiba will make sure that there is a huge third-party accessories ecosystem

We all know who the Zune is competing against (begins with an "i" and ends with "Pod").  The only real question is this one - will consumers with $300 bucks to spend on a media player buy the Zune or will they follow the lead of millions of other users and take the Apple route?

Topic: Wi-Fi

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  • Antisocial

    Interesting concept--do people want to listen to their own music, or do they want to have someone else dictate listening choices for them? Seems to fly in the face of the whole "long tail" concept where individuals get their quirky and obscure needs served. Also given the flagging ratings seen by radio these days, do we really want a dj anymore?

    Then again, given the growth of the myspace generation, perhaps forming these little cliques will have some appeal.
    tic swayback
    • You've hit the market I think ...

      The MySpace generation ... kinda makes me feel old!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Kids today....

        I've given up predicting the ways of youth. Who knew we'd have a whole generation of exhibitionists, willing to show all details of their lives, pretending they're contestants on reality tv shows...
        tic swayback
        • Darn fool kids!

          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • Broken

    MS' Plays For Sure DRM has been broken. What will this mean for Zune?

    tic swayback
    • Re: Broken


      How about studying the effect of the precedent?
      tick tock
      • I miss jHymn

        jHymn was great, in that it allowed me to shop at the iTunes store, as I could immediately remove the DRM. Sadly, the developer behind it got a real job and hasn't kept it up to date. Apple has since broken it, and lost my business as a result.

        But MS' DRM is a different risk, due to the subscription model. It's one thing to buy a song and strip the DRM. It's quite another to pay $14.99 and get 1,000 plus songs and strip away the rental limitations.
        tic swayback
        • Yeah ...

          There's a real ethical difference there. However, I bet that there are hundreds of people filling their hard drives as I type.
          Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
    • They'll probably patch this soon ...

      Expect a patch soon ...
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
      • Wel...

        ...not until the correct Tuesday, at least. Until then, feast away.
        tic swayback
  • Zune is the Overture of the Vistapocalypse

    Redmond will release Zune in time for Christmas and sell nearly 50, not counting the ones Microsoft will send to Steve Jobs as a lousy joke. MS CEO Steve Ballmer will be arrested for biting a mother on her face in a department store while her son and daughter inspect the offerings at the iPod display. Ballmer will claim the report of the attack was a "gross exaggeration, spread by Microsoft's infinite enemies; I just brushed by her, looking for the Zune display" before settling out of court.

    Defects will plague the players (all 42 that will finally be sold) and Microsoft will end up in a law suit with all its media vendors who will charge that Microsoft was refusing to pay royalties after placing a 1/800th of a second of silence at the end of the songs they were selling through Zune and claiming they were all "new, original and innovative works copyrighted Microsoft. Duh."

    After 8 months of litigation, the suit will be settled out of court after CEO Ballmer bites through one of the tires on the Sony attorney's Lexus in the court parking lot and is shot with a tranquilizer round by the Washington State Department of Animal Control. Zune will be pulled off the shelves in June 2007 after MS issues a press release describing "its brilliant *pilot* of a massive, galaxy-stretching, mind-expanding portable media program yet to come" as a "total and unquestioned success."

    Analysts will point out, however, that after the law suits, media companies were so shocked to find nastier lawyers working for MS than they ever employed, MS was unable to contract any content for the Zune service at all. MS will be forced to start its own recording label and will only be able to sign William Shatner scatting and singing obscene lyrics to television theme songs and, in a desperate play, offer downloadable monster movies of CEO Ballmer stalking and eating his neighbors' pets.

    Analysts, newspaper columnists, national security consultants and religious leaders will accurately predict the devastating Vistapocalypse that will attend the release of Vista on Thanksgiving Day, 2007. Microsoft, sure of its success, will make an unprecedented media move buying all of the available commercial air time on the SuperBowl broadcast to demonstrate Vista's "advanced features" during commercial breaks starring William Shatner and CEO Ballmer as 'Spock' aboard the new "Starship Vista."

    Breaking with tradition, the spots will air live and will have to be improvised largely by Shatner when Ballmer's bright red Federation officer's jersey becomes hopelessly tangled around his head. "The new Aero screen saver is guaranteed to neutralize erectile dysfunction, hair loss and flatuence, right Science Officer Ballmer?" Shatner will announce, beaming from his familiar captain's chair, while muffled shrieks emanate from the crimson-shrouded head of the shirtless Ballmer, thrashing senselessly, struggling to pull the jersey down over his head.

    By the third quarter, newscasters will announce during breaks in the action that Vista had been cracked by Eastern European and Central Asian terrorist groups, had already taken over all the Vista desktops in the western world and were using them to drain corporate bank accounts and send wire transfers to Al Qaeda. Ballmer, interviewed by sportcasters on the scene, will be by then hopelessly entangled in the red jersey with his hands caught in the sleeves and his arms suspended over his shoulders.

    Unable to answer their questions with anything more than a strangled scream, Ballmer runs from the TV cameras and head-butts the Astrodome until he is unconscious.

    The next day, President Bush will declare, "Now I know what the 'blue screens of death' thing-things were all about. These people are fellow travelleres to Al Qaeda and their collaborators in the Democratic Party," and orders the Justice Department to bring racketeering and terrorism charges against the company.

    MS attemtps to deflect the charges by changing its address to a vacant lot in Spokane and ordering its employees to hide their eyes behind their hands while at work on the Redmond campus. CEO Ballmer flees justice and is caught in a dragnet some months later by British Columbia animal control officers, answering a call about an insane pet-eating bear running amock Fort Nelson in northern British Columbia.

    There, CEO Ballmer will be shot dead after fatally chewing through the neck of one officer and nearly severing his head from his shoulders. MS finally will collapse as thousands of employees leave, disgusted by the ethics of company convicted of abusive business practices and accused of shoddy engineering, racketeering, terrorism and finally, in the last straw, cannibalism.

    The company loses most of its board and finally a court appoints a board of receivers to maintain the company until the Windows operating system can be sold to investors. Microsoft XBOX survives as Shatner buys the division, keeping the tradename 'Microsoft' as the receivers could find no one else to buy the name of a company associated with crime, terrorism, insanity and cannibalism.

    Shatner will market a successful range of pornographic outer-space adventure games under the brand for the XBOX.