Zune Thoughts: Diving Deep on the Zune: Q&A with Microsoft

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Friday, September 15, 2006

Diving Deep on the Zune: Q&A with Microsoft

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 10:19 AM

Continuing on from yesterday's "Diving Deep on the Zune" article, we have a selection of Q&As from the conference call with Microsoft. People in attendance were Microsoft's Cesar Menendes, General Manager of Marketing Chris Stephensen, Harvey from Zunerama, and Jason Dunn from our very own Zune Thoughts. The text below was transcribed from the latter 15 minutes of the conference call. Read on for more!



Harvey: There is some speculation that with the DJ-ing feature transmitting to nearby Zunes - will each owner be able to assign a nickname to their Zune, so that it's identifiable who you're DJ-ing to?

Chris: Absolutely, yeah. You'll have a name, every Zune will have a name, every person in the community will have a name. You know, we call them gamertags in the Xbox Live community. So you'll have your own Zunetag in this community as well. When you buy a device and join the community, you'll sign up and you'll give your device a name and you'll give yourself a name, so you'll know exactly who you're sharing to in your local area. You can have your friends list of all the people that you have selected, like you do in instant messaging, for example. You've got all your buddies. You can actually just select the guys that you want to share with, and join into that community. We haven't gone specific about an announcement on that DJ-ing feature, but you're probably referring to the Toshiba article on that, and the nice thing about having a wireless device here is that there's many scenarios that we can enable in the future. We call it future-proofing, so we got a roll-out of really interesting scenarios for 2007 that will bring the whole wireless idea to the next level. So, very much part of the rollout plan is being able to establish and create new features as we go along. That's definitely something to look out for in 2007.

Harvey: Chris, one thing that I haven't seen out there in the material releases today are the dimensions and weight of the player.

Chris: The player is exactly the same weight as an iPod Video. In fact, we're 5.6 ounces. They're 5.5, if you want to be really technical. It's pretty much the same size as an iPod Video. We are 4.4" x 2.4". They're 4.1" x 2.4". It's a little less than a quarter of an inch taller. It's basically a little taller, the same weight, and the same width.

Jason: And the thickness?

Chris: They are 0.47", and we are 0.58". So, we're a little thicker.

Harvey: Okay, and that's comparing it with an 80GB iPod?

Chris: That's comparing it with an 80GB, and the 30GB is exactly the same. In fact, the 80GB and the 30GB for the iPod are the same. The 30GB is 4.8 ounces. The difference is actually screen size. The screen size [of the Zune] is quite a bit bigger - it's 3". It's got the wireless built-in as well, so that little bit of additional thickness is really down to the additional features that are inside, and there is also a radio receiver in there.

Jason: Can we talk about the battery life for a little bit? Are you committing to any numbers in terms of Wi-Fi on or off, or video playback... that kind of stuff?

Chris: There is so much sort of development work, and as you guys know, in the technology process, you're working on maximizing the firmware on that stuff right up to release. What I can say right now is we're not releasing those specific details. As soon as we do, we'll let you guys know. I will give you a couple of quick hints at it, though. I actually have the numbers right in front of me. We are quicker to full charge. Over a period of two hours, there's significantly more charge than an iPod. In terms of the overall battery life, in terms of music, pictures, video - it's very comparable. We haven't got specific numbers. It's very comparable to all iPod Video scenarios. Sometime, probably in the middle of October, we'll get closer on some of those specs.

Jason: Now is that the new iPod that has the enhanced battery life, or are you guys comparing yourself to the older units?

Chris: This is all the brand new stuff that has been recently released. Yes.

Jason: Perfect.

Harvey: There's a lot of speculation out there about the effects of Wi-Fi on the battery. Can you tell us how you're testing it?

Chris: To get a detailed response on that, I'm not the right guy to talk to. That would be more like a Greg Gibson question. He's our head of engineering. The basic principle is that the way the software and the firmware is being created is to maximize the... basically, you're only utilizing Wi-Fi when you're utilizing Wi-Fi. That's the very simple way of looking at it. When you're sending, it's only Wi-Fi. It's not like Wi-Fi is on permanently - sort of burning down the battery. When we launch, that's what you're going to have. You're going to have a system that's Wi-Fi when you want it to be Wi-Fi, and otherwise it's not. Effectively, the headline on that is Wi-Fi is not a significant limiter of battery life, based on the way we've written the engineering specifications.

Harvey: Related to the battery, I think the biggest complaint we get about the iPod is that the battery is not replaceable. When it dies, you have to replace the iPod. Is the Zune - is that a non-replaceable battery?

Chris: It is, yeah. It is actually a similar product in that respect.

Harvey: How about release dates? Can you confirm any of those?

Chris: Um, release... Sorry, did you say Apple release dates?

Harvey: Sorry, release dates for the first Zune player and the service?

Chris: We haven't released the specific date right now. It is Holiday '06. So we'll be coming to market on Holiday '06. We're working around a few different dates. There's a huge amount of stuff going on around the holiday period, so I don't think it'll be a surprise to anyone to say it's November. But we haven't announced that, and we're waiting to get the right day, and just see everything else that's going on in the market at the moment.

Jason: Getting back to the battery for just a second here, I think in the FCC documents, they specified that it was 700mA. Can you confirm that that's going to be the final shipping battery size?

Chris: I could not, quite frankly. There's a certain amount of things that you guys might need to know about that we need to follow up on. A lot of the detailed tech specs - I'm not really the right person to speak to.

Harvey: Can you tell us about the pricing? $299 has been a well publicized rumor. Might that change with the Apple announcement this week?

Chris: Well, you know. We've always said that we'll be a parity with the market. We'll be at the right place for the market. We haven't announced price right now, and you're right, $299 has been banded around. I've seen $199, $249, $299, and even $329. We haven't announced the price right now. Watch this space is the way to answer that.

Harvey: It's interesting that Apple split the differences with their two updated iPods...

Chris: Yeah, it's interesting that they decided to reduce the price of the 30GB. It's come down $50. That's obviously a huge financial hitch. I'm not sure what they think we're doing. It's certainly an interesting thing to do - to reduce the price of a good-selling product like that - that was selling well at $299. We'll take it as it is. It's an interesting move on their part, and it's an interesting opportunity in the market place.

Harvey: Just about the Marketplace, and I apologize if this is in the specs. Is there pricing release for the subscription services?

Chris: No, we actually haven't released pricing on any of the products or Marketplace products at the moment.


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