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Just a Thought - Too Soon To Zune

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- August 28th, 2006

We Mac geeks love a good tech rumor. Hint that there's a new processor available that could possibly go into Macs and we are over at Ars Technica quicker than you can say "I want a black Mac mini" five times fast. Give us pictures and we pick it apart like vultures on fresh road kill. Leaked info and spy photos are as much a part of the Mac culture as using the trash can to unmount a CD.

It stands to reason, then, that when photos of what is claimed to be Microsoft's supposed iPod Killer, Zune, appears on several sites around the Web, many geeks of every stripe would weighed in with opinion, mostly derisive, of the device. The device is getting verbal abuse for good reason -- what is being shown on these sites is nothing to really get excited about.

The purported Zune device has a 3" screen, a circular navigation controller, a hard drive, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, which, in my ever-so-humble opinion, are all yawn inducing features these days. I've looked at a Palm LifeDrive, for instance, and it offers many, if not all these features today. The LifeDrive is cool in its own right, but couldn't possibly threaten the iPod even if it had an iTunes Music store-like service behind it. So, many people are openly asking what Microsoft was thinking.

I'm asking that very question, but for a different reason. You see, I don't believe that Big Redmond is so desperate to capture media attention over the Zune that it would allow real photos of its baby to be divulged so carelessly. Like Apple, Microsoft stands to gain by keeping the wraps on its player until the time is right.

So, if what's being shown on all of those Web sites is not the Zune player, what is it?

A decoy, perhaps?

What better way to pique interest in the Zune without actually showing what it looks like? Like old Camaros and Firebirds, the Zune may share many features with Toshiba's new player, but you can bet your fuzzy dice that Microsoft's XBox design team has reworked the plain-vanilla device into something they hope will turn a few heads.

That's not to say that the XBox design team won't produce a dud. The XBox itself is not hard to look at, but it's hardly a head turner. I personally prefer the design cues of Nintendo's impending Wii game system, so I'm not expecting much from the real Zune when it shows up, but I have to believe that what is shown on those Web sites are similar to those car spy photos you see in Popular Mechanics. You know, those photos of vehicles on a test track that have many of the styling cues covered or boxed out? The device being labeled a Zune could be like that.

Then again, I could be wrong; the ugly duckling that has everyone talking may actually be the Zune. If so, then Microsoft is about to offer up a lame duck that may never get off the ground. We'll have to wait until the end of the year to know for sure.

is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

You can send your comments directly to me, or you can also post your comments below.

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