CDM got some early exclusives on the future of Microsoft’s media plan and PlaysForSure, including an explanation of why Zune isn’t part of the PlaysForSure program, thanks to Dave McLauchlan of the Windows Media Group:

Microsoft Not Turning Back on PlaysForSure with Zune Player
MTP, Portable Player Standard? Microsoft’s McLauchlan Sets Us Straight

At the time, Microsoft wouldn’t say anything publicly about its upcoming player. Now, it has made its Zune announcement official. Translating the marketing-speak is too painful for me today, so you can read the press release after the jump, but here are the interesting points:

  1. Wireless sharing: As widely predicted, the Zune will feature wi-fi music sharing, via Zune-to-Zune connections. Microsoft also promises a “platform” for sharing music and video. Sounds interesting; as long as this eventually involves the ability to freely stream VJ sets and sound files in any format I want anywhere I want, I’ll be really happy. (Okay, that could be wishful thinking …)
  2. Share recordings: The portable music consumer product makers generally don’t seem to understand that lots of people make their own recordings. So it’s comforting to see among the sharing features that you’ll be able to share “homemade recordings.” (Homemade, I think, is in contrast to the DRMed music purchased for the Zune, which will have plenty of sharing restrictions — but all the more reason to stock up on your own stuff and non-DRMed music and share that instead.)
  3. Surprise! Hip music! Microsoft apparently wants to build its street cred by pre-loading indie music on the device. The device will feature music from “DTS, EMI Music’s Astralwerks Records and Virgin Records, Ninja Tune, Playlouderecordings, Quango Music Group, Sub Pop Records, and V2/Artemis Records.” Sup Pop? Ninja Tune? Quango? Wow, we might actually get some music we like. And meanwhile Apple is shilling with John Legend. Am I in bizarro world?

Zune’s focus seems to be music discovery and sharing. Whether Microsoft actually pulls that off or it’s just marketing hype, it’s nice to see them trying, at least — even if they aren’t giving a run for its money any time soon.

Anyway, that’s how I put it. Here’s how Microsoft puts it, in marketing speak:

Microsoft’s Zune Delivers Connected Music and Entertainment Experience

Built-in wireless technology lets consumers share experiences device to device.

REDMOND, Wash. � Sept. 14, 2006 � Marking the next big milestone for its Connected Entertainment vision, Microsoft Corp. today unveiled details of the first products to be released under its Zune™ brand. Designed around the principles of sharing, discovery and community, Zune will create new ways for consumers to connect and share entertainment experiences. The Zune experience centers around connection � connection to your library, connection to friends, connection to community and connection to other devices.

â€Å“The digital music entertainment revolution is just beginning,â€Â? said J Allard, vice president, design and development, at Microsoft, who is leading the charge for building the family of Zune products. â€Å“With Zune, we are not simply delivering a portable device, we are introducing a new platform that helps bring artists closer to their audiences and helps people find new music and develop new social connections.â€Â?

The Zune Experience

Available this holiday season in the United States, Zune includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. The Zune device features wireless technology, a built-in FM tuner and a bright, 3-inch screen that allows users to not only show off music, pictures and video, but also to customize the experience with personal pictures or themes to truly make the device their own. Zune comes in three colors: black, brown and white.

Every Zune device creates an opportunity for connection. Wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing lets consumers spontaneously share full-length sample tracks of select songs, homemade recordings, playlists or pictures with friends between Zune devices. Listen to the full track of any song you receive up to three times over three days. If you like a song you hear and want to buy it, you can flag it right on your device and easily purchase it from the Zune Marketplace.

Zune makes it easy to find music you love â€â€? whether it’s songs in your existing library or new music from the Zune Marketplace. Easily import your existing music, pictures and videos in many popular formats and browse millions of songs on Zune Marketplace, where you can choose to purchase tracks individually or to buy a Zune Pass subscription to download as many songs as you want for a flat fee.

To get started with great music and videos out of the box, every Zune device is preloaded with content from record labels such as DTS, EMI Music’s Astralwerks Records and Virgin Records, Ninja Tune, Playlouderecordings, Quango Music Group, Sub Pop Records, and V2/Artemis Records.

Zune Accessories

To enhance the Zune experience, three accessory packs help Zune users enjoy their music where they want to, at home or on the road. The packs and the individual accessories, all designed exclusively for Zune, will be available at launch:

o The Zune Car Pack includes everything needed to hit the road with a Zune device, such as the built-in FM tuner with AutoSeek and the Zune Car Charger.
o The Zune Home A/V Pack enhances your experience in the home through five products that integrate Zune with the TV and music speakers: Zune AV Output Cable, Zune Dock, Zune Sync Cable, Zune AC Adapter and the Zune Wireless Remote for Zune Dock.
o Zune Travel Pack is a set of five products designed to keep friends and family entertained on the road: Zune Premium Earphones, Zune Dual Connect Remote, Zune Gear Bag, Zune Sync Cable and the Zune AC Adapter.

Providing consumers with additional options to customize and personalize their Zune experience, Microsoft is also working with leading accessory manufacturers Altec Lansing, Belkin Corp., Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO), Dual Electronics, Griffin Technology, Harman Kardon and JBL, Integrated Mobile Electronics, Jamo International, Klipsch Audio Technologies, Logitech, Monster Cable Products Inc., Speck, Targus Group International Inc. and VAF Research

The Future is Bright

In addition to the features available at launch, built-in wireless technology and powerful software provide a strong foundation to continue to build new shared experiences around music and video. As Zune evolves, the device can be easily updated. The Zune software on your PC will let you know when these updates are available for download.

About Zune

Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment platform that provides an end-to-end solution for Connected Entertainment. The Zune experience includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service, and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. Inspired by the vast and varied community of music fans, Zune focuses on helping emerging artists shape the digital canvas. Zune is part of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices division and supports the company’s software-based services vision to help drive innovation in the digital entertainment space. More information can be found online at