Zune: what we know, think we know, and don't yet know

Ok, so we got off the horn with Microsoft just a few minutes ago and realized that making heads or tails of all this Zune stuff is probably driving some of you crazy . (We know others are probably just getting driven crazy by all the posts we've been writing about it. Sorry, it's our job!) So here's what we know for sure, think we know according to inside sources (i.e. yet unconfirmed information), and what we don't yet know at all about the Zune.

What we know (for sure)

  • Zune is the name of the project, the brand, and the device.

  • The first Zune device will be launched this year, with more devices to come in 2007.

  • The Zune brand encompasses not only the device, but the software that will drive it, as well as a music, movie, and media service the Zune device family will use for acquiring, sharing, and discovery of said media. Music will be the first angle of service that is launched, "connected entertainment" being the ultimate goal.

  • The Zune media service will heavily leverage community aspects and recommendation; emphasis is being placed on using Zune to discover new artists, media, etc.

  • The Zune media device will be drive-based, and have WiFi.

  • The Zune brand is intended to be an entirely vertically integrated end-to-end solution, not unlike the iPod / iTunes / iTunes Music Store triumvirate.

  • The service and device will not be PlaysForSure compliant, meaning you will not be able to use your Zune player with Napster or Vongo, for example. This will be an entirely new system. Microsoft will continue to support and develop for their PlaysForSure initiative, but all things PlaysForSure are handled by two entirely separate division that will not have any crossover.

  • Zune is under Microsoft's new Entertainment & Devices Division, and is headed by, among others, Robbie Bach, J Allard (Corporate Vice President and Chief XNA Architect), and Bryan Lee (Corporate Vice President and CFO, Entertainment and Devices Division), which accounts for the division of this project from the rest of Microsoft, similar to how the Xbox project was also strictly separated.

  • The logo we had is, of course, real.

  • Microsoft's launched the Zune viral marketing site, [Thanks, bv]

What we think we know (and are pretty sure of)

  • They'll be showing off the device by the end of next month, and will aim for a November release.

  • Microsoft will buy your way out of iTunes in order to convert you to a Zune user.

  • The Zune will come in multiple colors.

  • Pyxis is the codename for their nano competitor which would also include video capabilities; Alexandria is the codename for the software that powers the Zune experience.

  • A Microsoft portable gaming system is in the works, and will be a part of the Zune family. This device should have Xbox Live Anywhere integration. This may or may not be an Xbox co-branded portable, but is probably going to be the portable gaming / media device we've been hearing about for years.

  • Microsoft's ad campaign will include a Super Bowl commercial.

  • The Zune will have a bevy of accessories at launch; it'll probably be cheaper for accessory makers to develop for the Zune port than pay the Made For iPod tax.

What we don't yet know

  • Whether the Zune media service will offer the same kind of all-you-can-eat subscription media services as PlaysForSure media services like Napster and Vongo. Supposedly subscription will be offered, but downplayed in favor of song purchase (which is the opposite of most PlaysForSure services).

  • Whether you'll actually only be limited to sharing with up to 10 people nearby, as rumored, and that they won't get the protected files, but will "bookmark" them for later purchase.

  • Exact device specifications for the first Zune device, as well as its price (though we hear it could be as much as $399).

  • Whether it'll include XM and/or Sirius service as rumored (we doubt it).

Let the analysis begin!