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Zune - Creating "music" social networks

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"
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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?

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