I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks, well, ever since I bought my Microsoft Zune player. What could be next for the Zune? We’re heard that there will be new products in the Zune line, so I put my thinking cap on. What do we have so far? We’ve got a device that’s similar in spec to the 30 GB Apple iPod and we all know that "similar" isn’t good enough to take market share. Yes, there’s a larger screen that works great for watching videos or transcoded DVDs, but is that enough? Nope. There’s built-in wireless capabilities to create mini ad-hoc networks for Zune file sharing. Is that enough? Nah, I can’t even find someone else to "squirt" a file to. So what could be the next product that will help Microsoft pickup more market share. When I put my mind to it, the answer jumped out at me right away.
Here’s what I think: we’ll see a Zune wireless headset next. Now, I have no knowledge of Microsoft’s plans here; this is just logical thinking on my part. Let me share the logic with you to see if you agree:
As mentioned, the Zune has one functional spec that the iPod doesn’t have and that’s the WiFi. Yes, I’d call it "crippled" for now, but that’s because we’re using today’s idea of what standard WiFi can do. Still, there’s wireless functionality in there and we know the unit is firmware upgradable. Microsoft has to extend that wireless functionality for Zune to have a competitive advantage, so logically, one option is a wireless method to listen to your Zune music.
Far-fetched? I don’t think so if you look at another product line at Microsoft: the Xbox 360. The video game platform was a great proving ground for Microsoft, especially in the wireless arena. Microsoft currently offers wireless game controllers, the Live Vision camera, the wireless racing wheel and….wait for it…..a wireless headset for the Xbox Live universe. From what I’ve read, the wireless peripherals for the 360 use a custom 2.4 GHz wireless networking protocol. I’d expect that same custom protocol is built into the Zune; makes sense if Zune was built in 10 months. If I were Microsoft, I would have leveraged that custom wireless platform from the 360 into the Zune, wouldn’t you?
Granted, the current wireless headset for the Xbox 360 is a single speaker (and a microphone), but if I were a betting man, I’d say Microsoft has something up their sleeves similar to the A2DP profile in Bluetooth to provide richer stereo sound without wires.
Sound logical or just a pipe-dream? I think we’ll see it and if we do, there’s another Microsoft marketing opportunity to show how the Zune is different than the iPod. While there are wireless add-ons for the iPod, they all require an external wireless transmitter for current iPods. Microsoft can tout a wireless headset as fully-compatible with the Zune without adding any extra bulk. Let’s see what happens next month at CES.