Redmond (WA) - A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to Reuters this afternoon that an MP3 player, for which Toshiba has filed for a license with the FCC, is actually the Zune player that Toshiba will apparently be manufacturing on behalf of Microsoft. The application was for a 30 GB hard drive MP3 player with a 3" color display.
TG Daily has obtained a copy of Toshiba's FCC filing for the device, dated 10 August, along with a draft of Toshiba's user manual, filed along with the FCC petition. Diagrams include captions which clearly refer to the device as "Zune," although the text refers to it by the code name "Pyxis." The manual describes how wireless communication can work between users of the device. Using a discoverability mode similar to Bluetooth, the manual describes the device can sense other like devices within a limited range. While in range, a device may be capable of sending and receiving "photos and promotional copies of songs, albums, and playlists from other Pyxis users," where "Pyxis" is the code word.
The manual goes on to describe that the device can stream music to up to four other devices, in a mode called DJing. With DJing mode turned on, up to four other users can listen to the same stream you're listening to. With the mode switched to "friends," only people listed in the device's "friends" list can listen in. You can listen to other people DJing in your immediate vicinity, however, even with your own DJing mode turned off. The person doing the DJing also controls the session, so you're just a passenger for the ride, just like listening to the radio.
The fact that sharing of content is limited to what the manual describes as "promotional copies of songs" confirms that the Zune will make strong use of Microsoft's most stringent digital rights management scheme. The manual also states the device's theoretical maximum wireless transfer speed will be 54 Mbps in 802.11g mode, and 11 Mbps in 802.11b mode.
The Zune prototype player, from Toshiba's filing two weeks ago with the FCC.
As a chassis, the Zune prototype depicted in the FCC filing appears to have been derived from Toshiba's existing Gigabeat line of players, though with a round controller more similar to Apple's iPod, rather than the Gigabeat's four-pointed star control. The unit will be powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, that can use a recharger stand connected to a PC's USB port. Like the Gigabeat, the Zune will have a three-inch TFT display tilted in portrait mode. It will be available in black, white, and in a nod to those who love color but perhaps don't love it too much, brown. Whether Zune users will appreciate its all-plastic design may become an important question, especially given how consumers responded to early editions of Apple's iPod nano screen, which was prone to scratches.
Toshiba's involvement as the apparent sole manufacturer of the Zune device for Microsoft explains why Toshiba was not among those companies expressing any opinion whatsoever on the Zune announcement last week, while Microsoft's portable media partners Creative Labs, SanDisk, and iRiver scrambled for position.