Microsoft today confirmed the existence of a new portable music player and integrated service called Zune. Launch is scheduled for launch some time this year.
Zune is clearly aimed at Apple’s iTunes/iPod dominance. In an interview with Billboard, Chris Stephenson, Microsoft’s new GM of marketing for MSN Entertainment Business, said Zune will be an umbrella brand for what he says is “a family of hardware and software products” targeting various digital entertainment services.
It’s an ambitious project that some critics are already saying goes too far outside Microsoft’s core strengths and could end up joining other media projects on the junk heap of tech history. Perhaps after seeing how successful Robert Scoble was in making Microsoft lovable again, two company employees working on Zune are also blogging about the project. Cesar Menendez is writing ZuneInsider.com, just launched today, and Richard Winn is writing blog called Madison and Pine. The company has also set up a site to collect emails for further information at ComingZune.com.
It will be interesting to see if the company can take a position of real innovation or whether Zune will just be a case of playing catch up – at the risk of feature overload.