updated 09:00 am EST, Mon November 12, 2007
Microsoft intends to improve on the basic formula of customization pioneered by the iPod for the release of the new Zunes, according to an interview with company global marketing chief Chris Stephenson. To be called Zune Originals, the service will offer not just four lines of engraved text (up from the iPod's two) on the aluminum backs of the new models but also any one of 27 different full-size drawings from internationally well-known artists.
The move is in part a conscious break from the "clean aesthetic" of Apple, Stephenson says, and encouraging users to fill the design of the player with art rather than leave it plain.
Engraving will be available from the Zune's launch tomorrow and should be free for the Zune 4, 8, and 80. Microsoft does not say whether it will be selling the Zune itself through the site instead of relying on third parties, as it frequently does with its peripherals and Xbox game consoles.