Microsoft's Zune aims to be social butterfly

iPod challenger to let people share streamed music with others, according to FCC filing by Toshiba.

Microsoft's forthcoming Zune player is shooting to be the life of the party, allowing users to create mobile social networks and stream music to nearby friends or strangers, according to a government regulatory filing.

Zune owners can act as their own DJ, sending streaming music content to up to four other devices, according to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission . With the device's wireless networking abilities turned on, people can send and receive photos, as well as "promotional copies of songs, albums and playlists," according to the filing, made public Thursday.


Hardware maker Toshiba, which is manufacturing the Zune device, was the company that filed the FCC documents. The documents refer to the device and service alternately as Zune and by two code names, Argo and Pyxis.

A Microsoft representative confirmed that the filing is legitimate and that Toshiba will manufacture the Zune device, but declined to offer additional details or comment on the information in the FCC filing.

"More details about Zune will be announced in the coming weeks," the representative said in an e-mail.

Microsoft confirmed last month that it was developing a device and music service to rival Apple Computer's iTunes/iPod combination. The company had said Zune would have built-in Wi-Fi abilities, but had not yet said what it planned to allow users to do with their wireless connection.

The software maker said it will have one model available in time for this year's holiday season. It has also said it expects the Zune effort to take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

As regards the DJ feature, people have the option of turning the feature on or off, as well as of choosing whether to stream to any nearby Zune user or only to people on their friends list. If the DJ setting is on, people don't need to do anything else to allow others to listen to their music. The music sent is the same as what the DJ is listening to; if they stop listening, the stream is interrupted.

According to the draft user manual, the device supports both the 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards. It also has a 30GB hard drive, a 3-inch screen and an FM tuner, along with a USB 2.0 connection to synchronize with a PC. "Sync your music, movies and pictures," reads one page from the manual.

Microsoft has said that Zune will come preloaded with videos from record label EMI, but has not discussed the details of any music or movie service it plans to offer.

Regulatory filings, such as the one Toshiba made, are required before devices with wireless connections can be sold to the public.

Toshiba has long used Microsoft's software in its products, dating back to its first laptop in 1985. The company has also made portable media players and handheld computers using the slimmed-down Windows CE operating system.

Last year, the two companies inked a patent cross-licensing pact and also spoke at the time of working together on "new breakthrough innovations that will bring about new scenarios for years to come."

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