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Microsoft Confirms Zune Music Player & Store In '06

UPDATED: In a Billboard interview released Friday followed by a statement from the company Microsoft has confirmed that under the Zune brand name they "will build a community for connecting with others to discover new music and entertainment and will deliver a family of hardware and software products - with the first products shipping in this year."  Zune will include both a player and a download store and be "one part MySpace, one part iTunes and one part Xbox Live".

Zune_logo_1"Today we confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together." - Chris Stephenson, GM of marketing, Microsoft

Stephenson confirmed that the player will offer WiFi capabilities with sharing limited to ten users within a hotspot. Zune may also include wireless access to a paid content or a digital locker. The interview also reaffirmed that Zune will include a variable-priced digital music store (something the music industry has long wanted) and be backed by a massive marketing campaign. Stephenson also said that future Zune players will include more video and gaming features. MSN Music will not be integrated into the project leaving it a strange step-child in the Microsoft family.

Richard_winn_1As part of Microsoft's viral marketing campaign several blogs have been created including Zune Insider and Madison and Pine by Microsoft employees working on the Zune project. Zune_wallpaper_2Madison and Pine is written by Richard Winn who is head of Artist Development and Music Marketing for the project. So far neither site provides much Zune info. Another site Coming Zune offers an animated teaser for Zune followed by a place to sign-up for updates. A follow-up email offers Zune wallpaper.

Stayed Zuned...