updated 11:30 am EST, Mon January 22, 2007
Speaking at the Midem music expo in Cannes, Microsoft's Chris Stephenson this weekend revealed that the company will introduce its first flash-based Zune music player, directly challenging Apple's top-selling iPod nano. While no details of the player are available, the player should ship in time for the holidays this year, Stephenson said. The as-yet unnamed jukebox is likely to be closely related to the currently Japan-only Gigabeat P but should add increase storage, the double-shot designer casing, and the Zune's signature Wi-Fi sharing feature.
That wireless functionality should also be expanded, Stephenson said. Without committing to any definite strategy, the Microsoft executive expressed a desire to add Wi-Fi browsing and downloading through the Zune Marketplace, allowing owners to add new music to the Zune without first linking to a PC. The player will ideally have "filling stations" at existing Wi-Fi hotspots such as Starbucks, Stephenson adds. Microsoft can't commit to a launch window for the feature, he said, but hopes to bring it to market as soon as possible.