Developer & Designer, News Editor Emeritus
Join Date: Aug 2006
What is the Zune?
One of our readers kindly informed us that in the excitement of the launch of Zune Thoughts, we failed to mention what the Zune was, and so he had to perform a quick web search to find out more. Not too surprising, really. There hasn't been much Zune-related publicity in print and visual media, and most of the buzz surrounding the product has been generated from blogs, internet news sites, and teaser pages. Over the days, weeks, and months, we'll be revealing the Zune slowly and steadily, similar to the peeling of the layers of an onion (without the pungent smell, of course). To kick things off, this post will give a quick "5W" analysis of the Zune. For those of you who have been tracking past and present Zune-related news, you won't find anything new here. This post scrapes the surface of the Zune, and serves to provide a basic overview of what the Zune is and what it has to offer.
What: Zune is a collective term describing the hardware, software, and services behind a new Microsoft-driven portable digital entertainment experience. All three components will be heavily tied together, much like the successful Xbox and Xbox Live model. Unlike other digital audio players driven by Microsoft technologies, the Zune will be unique in that everything will be born and bred within Microsoft, without the interference of OEM partners.
Who: As you've probably worked out, Microsoft is the company behind the Zune. Digging deeper, some of the folk behind the Xbox 360 are the brains behind it all.
When: The Zune isn't a Microsoft project lasting several months. While the first-generation Zune device is expected in the fourth quarter of 2006, the project will continue for many years as successive models are released with new features enhancing the overall integrated experience.
Where: The Zune will initially launch in the United States. By the end of 2007, the product line will expand and be made available in multiple countries.
Why: Microsoft's plan to rejuvenate its presence in the portable digital entertainment market isn't simply about replicating the functions of other digital audio players. The company plans to go the extra mile by tapping into this core theme of "community and discovery", which it knows a lot about, thanks to the successful Xbox model. Visiting an online media store won't just be about purchasing the media, but rather, an additional opportunity to share media (both purchased and user-created), share experiences, and so on. And then in the bigger picture, extending and integrating that Zune experience with other Microsoft products such as Media Center, Windows Mobile, Windows Live, Xbox 360, Xbox Live, and the list continues. Many have argued that the Zune is simply an iPod clone, but based on the hints that Microsoft has dropped over the past couple of months, it's a lot more than just a clone, and as we approach Christmas, we'll start to see the Zune take shape and its features become clearer.
Want to see Microsoft's official teaser page? Visit Coming Zune.