Here's an update on the Microsoft Zune ecosystem, which was officially launched this morning:
The 30GB Zune (designed by Microsoft, manufactured by Toshiba) will use ad-hoc Wi-Fi for local communication with other Zune users. So you can share, but not online (as you could with the MusicGremlin). Also, this means you cannot connect to the Zune Marketplace from the device itself. However, Microsoft has left the door open for development of the Zune's wireless capabilities. J. Allard of Microsoft says in this Engadget interview, "We've got thousands of ideas and we're going to sort those ideas based on what our customers are telling us and what kind of experience they have with it...That's the beauty of having 802.11 in every device: we can do that."
The Zune will play back, at the least, MP3, unprotected AAC, and WMA audio files. No confirmation on other formats such as lossless, WAV, and Audible. Tracks purchased from the store will be 192Kbps and will not play on any other device, including PlaysForSure devices. Like the iPod's, Zune's is a closed ecosystem. It will also support WMV, H.264, and MPEG-4. So the Zune won't be as closed up as many people had feared. Microsoft wants to play nice with your existing non-DRM media.
No specs on dimensions or weight, though some invite-only music bloggers who got to play with the Zune have commented on it being heavy and thick. Also, the round primary navigation pad is a five-way pad, not a Clickwheel-style controller. No word on bundled accessories, though it looks like you'll have to spring for an AC adapter (charges via USB).
Additional Zune features include on-the-go playlists; photo slide shows with music; song information on some FM stations; as you scroll through content, the first letter will appear just like on the Toshiba Gigabeat S and the new iPods.
The Zune's 3-inch screen will be QVGA (320x240), nothing to write home about. However, it will shift to horizontal mode for videos and photos, and the controls will shift with it--just like on the Toshiba Gigabeat S. The software interface also borrows from the Portable Media Center interface--such features as twist navigation (which I love).
No mention of Zune's potential integration with Live Anywhere. The Zune, like a few other current Windows Media devices, can be connected to an Xbox via USB, and its contents can be played back and controlled via the Xbox.
So far, no pricing and availability, and no details such as battery life, though according to Billboard.com, Microsoft officials have stated it's 12 hours--with Wi-Fi off. That's pretty weak and could be a stumbling block for the Zune out of the gate.
The Zune jukebox software will host the Zune Marketplace, where users will be able to purchase tracks (presumably WMA) and/or become a subscriber to Zune Pass. No details on pricing yet. It will support photos and video as well (looks like it's built on top of Windows Media Player).
The Zune will include a Journal window, which keeps track of flagged music (for later purchase) as well as songs swapped with other Zunesters. This Journal option will show up in the Zune software as well.
You can get more information at News.com and ZuneInsider.com. Here's the new video.
Check out the Zune photo slide show
Check out a video of Zune-to-Zune sharing (via Mobility Today).