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September 14, 2006

Microsoft unveils Zune

Posted by David Hunter at 12:11 PM ET.

Microsoft’s Zune Delivers Connected Music and Entertainment Experience:

Marking the next big milestone for its Connected Entertainment vision, Microsoft Corp. today unveiled details of the first products to be released under its Zune™ brand. Designed around the principles of sharing, discovery and community, Zune will create new ways for consumers to connect and share entertainment experiences. The Zune experience centers around connection — connection to your library, connection to friends, connection to community and connection to other devices.

Available this holiday season in the United States, Zune includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. The Zune device features wireless technology, a built-in FM tuner and a bright, 3-inch screen that allows users to not only show off music, pictures and video, but also to customize the experience with personal pictures or themes to truly make the device their own. Zune comes in three colors: black, brown and white.

Every Zune device creates an opportunity for connection. Wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing lets consumers spontaneously share full-length sample tracks of select songs, homemade recordings, playlists or pictures with friends between Zune devices. Listen to the full track of any song you receive up to three times over three days. If you like a song you hear and want to buy it, you can flag it right on your device and easily purchase it from the Zune Marketplace.

Zune makes it easy to find music you love — whether it’s songs in your existing library or new music from the Zune Marketplace. Easily import your existing music, pictures and videos in many popular formats and browse millions of songs on Zune Marketplace, where you can choose to purchase tracks individually or to buy a Zune Pass subscription to download as many songs as you want for a flat fee.

To get started with great music and videos out of the box, every Zune device is preloaded with content from record labels such as DTS, EMI Music’s Astralwerks Records and Virgin Records, Ninja Tune, Playlouderecordings, Quango Music Group, Sub Pop Records, and V2/Artemis Records.

There’s also a list of three Microsoft accessory packs for car, home, and travel and the promise of more accessories from third party manufacturing partners.

Frankly, this seems anticlimactic in that it merely confirms the existing buzz and there’s nothing on pricing of hardware or content, but at last there’s an explanation of the wireless sharing feature. More details at the Zune Virtual Pressroom.

Update: My gosh, the box is brown – since the link isn’t working, scroll to the bottom here.

Update 2: Microsoft’s Cesar Menendez has more including a list of bloggers that got a special Zune preview and will be providing reviews today.

Update 3: Movie downloads and a Zune phone are coming later.

There’s a Zune interface video here and Paul Thurrott has some photo galleries.

You can import MP3 and Windows Media files, but “Rumors that the company would pay to replace a user’s iTunes store purchases with Zune-compatible tracks are not true, Microsoft said Thursday. “ You can transfer CD tracks ripped to iTunes (i.e. AAC format) however.

As for the sharing feature:

“I made a song. I own it. How come, when I wirelessly send it to a girl I want to impress, the song has 3 days/3 plays?” Good question. There currently isn’t a way to sniff out what you are sending, so we wrap it all up in DRM. We can’t tell if you are sending a song from a known band or your own home recording so we default to the safety of encoding.

Engadget interviews Microsoft CVP J. Allard who is running the Zune effort. Excerpt:

Other people just a want a system that’s end-to-end — all compatible out of the gate — and that’s what Zune does. Zune says there is no choice; you get a Zune device, you hook it up to the Zune service, and it just works.

We’ve also found that there’s a category of customers that say, “Give me a brand experience, advertise it to me on television; I want to be part of the digital music revolution, and that solution [PlaysForSure] doesn’t work for me.” So they’re two complementary solutions — not everyones gonna want Zune and not everyone’s gonna want PlaysForSure. They’re different paths there, and we’re okay with both of them.

“We will not be undercut by Apple on price,” Matt Dublier, a Microsoft Zune product manager, told

Microsoft’s viral marketing website has augmented the rabbit petters with flaming birds.

Filed under Argo, Executives, J Allard, Microsoft, PlaysForSure, Technologies, Zune

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4 Responses to “Microsoft unveils Zune”

  1. Zune: Is there any there there? -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] In the prior post I’ve tried to round up all the Zune details revealed today, but the real question is whether Zune has any potential to gain traction in the already crowded personal media player market dominated by Apple’s iPod/iTunes combination. While pricing details haven’t been revealed, barring some sort of pricing subsidy, the Zune is just yet another personal music player and all it really has going for it is Microsoft’s marketing budget and the problematic Wi-Fi music sharing feature. [...]

  2. Zune announcement afterthoughts -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Since last week’s Zune “almost announcement,” a variety of pesky details have come to light: [...]

  3. Other Zune shoe drops, pricing and availability announced -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] Back on September 14, Microsoft teased the crowd with a lot of details on their upcoming Zune personal media player, but glaringly absent were any details on pricing and availability. That just got fixed: Today the company announced that the Zune™ digital media player and online service will be available to consumers in the U.S. on Nov. 14, 2006, just in time for the holidays. The Zune device will retail for $249.99 U.S. (ERP) and will create new ways for entertainment fans to connect and share media experiences device-to-device through the use of wireless technology and new software scenarios. So Microsoft decided to match the new price of of the 30GB iPod that was announced by Apple on Sept. 12. [...]

  4. Lipstick for the pigs -- Microsoft News Tracker Says:

    [...] “We’ll obviously keep a close eye and, if we need to or want to, we’ll shift focus,” Reindorp said. Here’s a modest suggestion for a shifted focus: lose the agencies that dreamed up the rabbit petters, flaming birds, scratching dog, and endless cookie and just advertise the darn product. If the Wi-Fi sharing is so cool, why not actually show some regular folks doing it and saying “Oooo!” and “Ah!” Just a thought. [...]

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