Sun, Aug 27, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Toshiba to build Microsoft's iPod rival

COMING ZUNE The software giant confirmed a deal with Toshiba to manufacture an MP3 player that will feature wireless filesharing and streaming audio capabilities


Microsoft's challenge to Apple's reigning iPod MP3 players will be built by Toshiba and allow people to "DJ" by wirelessly sharing music, US regulatory agency filings showed on Friday.

Plans submitted to the US Federal Communications Commission by Japanese electronics giant Toshiba provided a glimpse at the workings of an MP3 player designed by Microsoft Corp, based in Redmond, Washington.

The device was referred to in the filing by the code name "Pyxis."

Microsoft has vowed to release a "Zune" MP3 player and matching online music and video store in time for the year-end holiday shopping season.

"I can confirm that Toshiba is manufacturing the device and that the FCC report is legitimate, but no further details," a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

The Microsoft MP3 player would tune in to FM radio as well as enable users to transfer video, pictures and music files between personal computers and the handheld devices.

The MP3 players would also be able to link wirelessly, according to an instruction manual included in the FCC paperwork.

"You will be able to send and receive photos and promotional copies of songs, albums and playlists from other Pyxis users," the manual indicated.

Music could be selectively streamed live to as many as four other MP3 players by using a feature labeled "DJ," according to the manual.

"Once your DJ setting is on, you don't need to do anything else in order for others to listen to your stream," the manual explained. "If someone tunes in, you will see an onscreen notification that you have a listener."

Pictures and sketches included with the FCC filing by Toshiba depicted a device the size of a notepad and with a track-wheel control akin to the iPod look.

Nearly two-thirds of the face was devoted to screen and specifications indicated it would have a hard drive with 30 gigabytes of memory.

Cupertino, California, based Apple makes iPod models with 30 and 60 gigabytes of hard drive memory.

Microsoft planned to go head-to-head with Apple's iPod player and iTunes online music store, according to analysts who were briefed on the Zune project.

"Under the Zune brand we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year," the software giant's marketing manager Chris Stephenson said in a July statement.

"We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow customers to explore and discover music together."

The Microsoft device, dubbed "iPod killer" by the media, would do what the iPod can't: allow users to wirelessly download music.

However, customers don't all value wireless connectivity because it gobbles battery power, costs more, and isn't an easy way to search for music, according to industry research.

Apple has parlayed the iPod popularity into sales for its Macintosh computer line, whose operating system has long been portrayed by devotees as a David standing against a global Goliath -- Microsoft's dominant Windows.

Apple touted rising Macintosh laptop computer sales in its latest quarterly earnings report.

Analysts expected the initial market for Zune would likely be people who would have bought other iPod competitors anyway.

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