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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 5, 2006 at 2:14 PM

Into the Zune Zone for an update

After I voiced some doubt about whether the sharing feature of Microsoft’s Zune player really works, I was invited over to the Bear Creek offices for another demo.

Sure enough, I was able to send songs back and forth between two devices. It was probably the ideal setting to share songs wirelessly though — I was sharing music with a Zune product manager, Matt Jublier, in a conference room with the devices about a foot apart. I’m still curious to see how they work in the real world, especially places with a lot of wireless activity.


BRIER DUDLEY

Sharing music works in a demo at the Zune team’s offices in Redmond.

You’re only supposed to be able to play shared songs you receive three times, after which you have to buy your own copy. I was able to start a shared song more than three times, but didn’t play it all the way through.

Microsoft is still doing builds of the Zune’s embedded software, even though the device is already being manufactured and goes on sale next month. It seems down to the wire, but Jublier said the devices will get software updates automatically when people connect them to a PC connected to the Internet.

Among the things being locked down are the default settings. One decision that was made: The devices will be ready to share music wirelessly out of the box, but they’ll also have a privacy feature turned on so that nearby users can’t see detailed information about what’s playing on your device. That setting can be changed if you want others to see what you’ve got playing, however.

Also interesting was the incidental tour of the Zune facility. The 180-person team was given the leeway to choose the look and feel of their offices, in a leased building across Highway 520 from the Redmond Target.

The team just moved into the newly remodeled first floor of the building this week. It has a large central atrium that serves as a cafeteria and meeting space. Furniture and carpets are modern, funky and colorful, and at lunchtime the tables all had clusters of people working together on laptops.

There are still individual, Microsoft-style offices, but they have sliding barn-style doors with silver hardware, frosted glass and espresso stained wood. Coming Zune: An in-house gym.

Here’s an earlier column on the Zune, and Ben Romano’s story on the September unveiling.

Comments | Topics: Gadgets & products, Microsoft, Zune

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