In a leaked copy of US music rag Billboard magazine (not due on shelves until next week) Microsoft has finally let out the worse kept secret in the industry: it’s building an iPod rival.
The actual article itself is light on details but let’s break down for you what we know. The project name is indeed ‘Zune’. We don’t know if this will be the final brand but it’s looking that way. A Chrimbo release is on the cards. Microsoft will release an end-to-end software companion which will fulfil a similar role to that of iTunes for the iPod. The Zune will play audio and video and come equipped with WiFi. A whole family of players will eventually emerge, possibly under the Zune family name. Microsoft has launched a teaser site for the device here (from which, odd grab above).
Outside this everybody (and by ‘everybody’ I mean every tech site on the planet) is speculating like crazy. Common threads include the idea that Microsoft will ‘buy out’ users iTunes collections to sway them to Zune, that Zune will integrate with both the Windows Vista OS and Xbox 360 (well… duh) and that we could see a demo as soon as the end of next month.
Sadly all the stuff we really want to know: hardware specs, dimensions, battery life, price remain hidden away but the world, his wife, her dog, its puppies and their baskets are taking wild swings at the truth so here’s my quid’s worth. It’s be iPod-ish in appearance, be slightly more powerful than whatever the next generation iPod is, cost about the same at the next generation iPod, not sell as well as the iPod for a long time to come, be the player you may want to own by its second generation...
…perhaps third or fourth actually and after a lot of critical security patches.