Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
When Microsoft released the first Zune late last year, the company sought to highlight its main differentiator, limited sharing of music tracks to other Zunes. The viral effect of music sharing would be hard to build, though, starting from scratch in such competitive market with a $250 device. As I wrote shortly after the Zune's debut, "the place to encourage music sharing should be in software or on web sites that can easily reach millions overnight, as Napster and Rhapsody have done."
Others expressed frustration that Microsoft wasn't using the Zune's WiFi capabilities for more pedestrian tasks such as wireless syncing or wireless access of Zune Marketplace's catalog via subscription. These limitations overshadowed discussion of the value of WiFi in a digital audio player.
But not for long. Just a few months later at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, SanDisk announced the Sansa Connect, its recently shipped tripartite collaboration among the number two player in the US market, Yahoo!, and a startup called Zing that provides software and services focusing on "always connected mobile entertainment." Like other Sansas, it's based on SanDisk's foundation in flash memory (4GB) and can accommodate more with a memory card (MicroSD -- sold separately). But there's more to the player than WiFi and flash memory.