Ever since it hit the shelves back in November 2006, Zune was positioned on the market as the leader of the digital media players' pack trailing Apple's iPod. But one thing that Microsoft was realistic about was the actual impact of the device. Although the Redmond company put its entire weight behind Zune, it also set up modest goals for the device. And Zune ended up living up to its mediocre expectations. Zune is still far from dislodging the iPod from its dominant position on the digital media player market, but it did manage to grab a slice, over 1 million
users at the end of the company's fiscal year 2007.
At the beginning of September, Apple made available its new lineup of iPods, introducing revamped Nano and Classic devices as well as the new Touch model, based on the design of the iPhone, and with a similar touch-based interface. Additionally, Apple upped the stakes and with the new wireless capabilities of the iPod and iPhone devices, it also introduced the iTunes Wi-Fi music store. Although originally, Zune was intended as a focus of Wi-Fi capabilities, emphasizing the social aspect of the music games, Apple simply beat Microsoft to the punch.
And to further stress the fact that the Redmond company is lagging behind Apple, only this month will Microsoft introduce the next generation of Zune. And by the looks of the images included in this article, the evolution to version 2.0 of Zune is nowhere near as spectacular as that of Apple. However, it is a big step forward for Microsoft, and it will undoubtedly grab some attention, an additional audience and the crumbs from Apple's market share.
The images included in here illustrate two flash-based Zune devices, and a model with a traditional hard-drive. At this point, they are made out of cardboard, and designed exclusively for show. It also appears that Microsoft is targeting October 7 for retail availability in the U.S., although speculations point to the fact that Zune 2.0 will be launched earlier, courtesy of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and J. Allard, the corporate vice president of Design and Development for the Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division.
With Zune 2.0, Microsoft will also upgrade the firmware of the device from the current version 1.4 to build 2.1. Firmware 2.1 for Zune will be an upgrade to the existing variant, and will feature functionality enhancements and tweaks to the graphical user interface. The Redmond company is preparing no less than 2.4 million Zune devices for the holiday season. Currently, Microsoft has failed to confirm the validity of the devices in the adjacent images, from ZuneOnline
or the imminent release date.