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August 10, 2006

The Titans Speak, Part 1: Glaser on Zune

Rob Glaser of RealNetworks warns of the dangers of "proprietary vertical platforms, each from a single company", in his most recent quarterly conference call. He describes iPod/iTunes, and Microsoft's Zune, as akin to the video-game console business, where hardware and software are controlled by a single company (can you say PlayStation?) and don't play well with others.

"...we think this is a case where our technology competitors -- in this case, specifically Microsoft -- have literally thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Indeed, Microsoft's decision to join Apple in the vertical camp provides us a great opportunity to partner with a number of other companies who make excellent hardware and who are open to integrating it tightly with our Rhapsody software platform."

He then promises to deliver "later this year" products and services proving that a "world-class, end-to-end music solution" can be delivered without one company doing everything.

And so the match takes shape.

In this corner, the reigning champion, Apple's iPod/iTunes.

In the far corner, the up-and-coming challenger from Microsoft, Zune.

And, somewhere in Row 38 of the stands, RealNetworks Rhapsody.

In our opinion: RealNetworks was KO'd a long time ago, and just doesn't know to fall down yet.

P.S. This week Zunerama has been listed as a "Cool Zune" site by ZuneInsider. Thanks, Insider!

August 9, 2006

Debunking the no-video rumor

Recent rumors about the Zune not having video capabilities appear to be just that. We've already heard from Microsoft employee Cesar M, and now we hear from Richard and Kyle of Microsoft that the speculation is "crazy".

Quote: "Here's what I know. I have seen the device running great quality video, actually I was asked to do a check on some video that had been encoded for me for the device. Looks rather good actually!" End-quote!

Our take is that how Microsoft serves up video feeds or provides video content is decidedly up in the air - - but that the first Zune product released in November will definitely have video capabilities.

Otherwise, the launch of Zune will be decidely splashless. Microsoft is so, so, smarter than that.

August 8, 2006

Wired disses Steve Jobs keynote

Monday was Apple's annual developers' conference, and Wired.com blasted Steve Jobs for an "uninspiring" keynote speech full of mundane product details.

Apple introduced a new desktop Mac, and previewed Leopard, Apple's new operating system.

No news on any dazzling iPod upgrades. No hints about Apple's "Zune-killer", if it exists.

Only 14 weeks until the unveiling of Zune... Apple has little time to take the wind out of Microsoft's sails with another leap-frog in technology.

We know they can do it. Or are they just hoping that Zune will land with a disinterested thud into the Christmas shopping season??

Hubris? Or does Steve Jobs have something up his sleeve? C'mon Apple, let's make this interesting.

August 7, 2006

Nasty video rumors

The New York Post reported this week that Microsoft had notified content providers that Zune's video feature was being delayed.

The same story reports that M'soft may give away downloads for free, and get its revenue from advertising cash.

The story has been debunked as rumor by Microsoft employee Cesar Menendez - and that the story confuses the ability to play video with the way that users purchase video.

August 6, 2006

Found on the Microsoft fridge (continued)

Related to yesterday's story, and exclusive to Zunerama.com, we offer the graphic to the right, which we're told is instructional guidance given to Microsoft Zune developers, from user interface lead Dr. Sidney Rorschach.

August 6, 2006

Found on the Microsoft fridge

Thanks to Microsoft employee Cesar Menendez, we have a sneak peek at an internal graphic that shows conceptually the goals for Zune. According to Cesar, it's to be "somewhere between Natural / Machine / Human / Synthetic".

Someone put a lot of thought into that poster. Does it hold the secrets of Zune? We've been staring at it. (Hey, there's not a lot to do while we're waiting for Nov 14.) We have reached no solid conclusions, although our intern Will is pretty sure there's something in there about the Priory of Sion and san greal.

And who created that poster? If I ever get hired by Microsoft, I want that job.

Cesar is on the Zune team and has to be careful what he reveals at this point, but stay tuned for more, and, ummm, thank you, for this enlightenment, Cesar.

August 3, 2006

It's official... launch date Nov 14!!

Zune graphic

Breaking news from sources close to Microsoft indicate that Zune will debut on November 14th.

More technical details are also emerging:

  • confirmation on the 30GB hard drive
  • color options of black, brown, and "cotton"
  • FM tuner
  • 13 accessories available at launch from Microsoft
  • Umpteen 3rd-party accessories
  • 50% larger screen than iPod with video.
  • That would make the screen 3-3/4" inches diagonal.

    More details should be forthcoming from Microsoft in August. Stay tuned.

    July 30, 2006

    Microsoft incentives to switch from iTunes..?

    According to arstechnica.com, Microsoft may lure iPod owners to switch to Zune, by offering to replace music purchased from the iTunes music store.

    Another possibility is that Microsoft will enable users to transfer iTunes to Zune by supporting their re-encoding into Windows Media Audio (WMA) format.

    Arstechnica also reports that the Zune player will have an iPod-like click-wheel interface, and that the device will sport a 30GB hard drive and built-in WiFi.

    The Zune device will run Windows Mobile on a 400MHz DSP processor - plenty beefy for gaming. Arstechnica notes that in June, Microsoft licensed Qualcomm's BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless), an application development platform used primarily for running games on mobile devices.

    The WiFi could support multiplayer gaming, as well as music-file-sharing from one Zune to another.

    Yet to be known: how Microsoft will deal with digital rights management to copyrighted music.

    July 28, 2006

    Just how dominant is iPod?

    No question about it, Microsoft has its work cut out for it with Zune. Apple is truly dominant, in the most Microsoft-ish way, in the digital music world.

    Witness these stats from Billboard magazine:

  • iTunes is currently responsible for about 70% of the digital music market.
  • iPod currently makes up 75% of the portable digital music player market.
  • People thought Microsoft couldn't overtake Netscape, and it took all of 5 months for Internet Explorer to overtake Netscape in market share, and about a year for it to choke Netscape to a slow unseemly death.

    Still, we wonder what's cooking down in Cupertino. I can't imagine Apple cooling its heels with iPod/iTunes - only to get knocked back on its heels when Zune hits the streets. Whither iPod?

    Comments     Digg this?

    July 26, 2006

    Argo, Pyxis, and Alexandria

    Someone in Microsoft likes Greek mythology, or perhaps astronomy, if their recent codenames are any indicator.

    Argo, Microsoft's codename for the Zune project, is named after the famous ship on which Jason and the Argonauts sailed. (Maybe Microsoft's sales group regarded the Zune venture as its next Golden Fleece?)

    According to legend, the Argo was transformed into the constellation of Argo Navis.

    Pyxis (Microsoft's codename for its Zune Nano-like device) is another constellation in the southern sky. According to wikipedia, Pyxis may represent the compass of the ship Argo Navis.

    Alexandria, the ancient Egyptian city, is Microsoft's codename for the software behind Zune.

    July 25, 2006

    Gaming with Zune?

    A Microsoft portable gaming system, potentially with Xbox Live Anywhere integration, is reportedly being developed as part of the Zune product family.

    July 23, 2006

    Pyxis - watch out Nano!

    Mr. Softy plans an iPod Nano competitor as part of the Zune family of products. This product is code-named Pyxis.

    Few details have emerged at this point. But one can surmise it'll be a flash-memory music-video player, probably with more capacity than the iPod Nano models. It will be interesting if it supports wireless download and file-sharing, and how small a package it will be relative to the Nano.

    July 22, 2006

    Getting to know Zune

    A few more details: Zune is described by Microsoft as "a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year."

    That reads about as dry as yesterday's PopTart.

    But the rumored features are enough to get your propellor-beanie spinning into GHz frequency:

  • portable video player
  • portable game device (hmm...mini-Xbox?)
  • WiFi (for downloading music/video/media. And maybe sharing music with other Zunes..?)
  • drive-based storage (as in iPod)
  • More to come.

    July 21, 2006

    Honey, we're expecting...

    Zune graphic

    ...a Zune, that is.

    And what's a Zune, you may well ask..?

    We don't exactly know, and as it turns out neither does anyone else who's talking. But something big and bad is coming from Microsoft... the end result of a much-anticipated project code-named Argo.

    The mission of Argo is to put all the muscle, brains, and power of Mr. Softy behind the development of a next-generation must-have piece of consumer electronics... the so-called "iPod-killer".

    After weeks of whispers, Microsoft released some details today. According to our friends at engadget.com, Microsoft confirmed the upcoming launch of Zune... which from what we can tell is some kind of a music-video-multimedia hardware gadget-software-service.

    Hybrids are certainly the rage these days.

    All this is enough to get our excitement up, and today we launch Zunerama.com.

    Who are we anyway? We are a small team of misfits and shut-ins. Our collective pulse quickens at cool gadgets and interesting technology. This website gives us a way to connect with others out there who share our curiousity for the unknown and passion for the innovative. Our team will gather, collate, twist, and spin the latest developments we can find on Zune.

    When there's none of that, we'll theorize, hypothesize, and analyze.

    On really slow days we'll probably just make stuff up.

    All in the service of you, our gentle readers. So stay tuned, friends. This could get fun.

    Warmest regards,

    Your loyal staff at Zunerama.com.

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