RIP Zune – Say Hello to the iPhone

It’s the beginning of the Zune as we know it. The much-derided “iPod Killer” that touted Wi-Fi and social networking features has just been undermined by the announcement of Apple’s much-rumoured iPhone. Not only does the iPhone have fully functional Wi-Fi but it combines the strengths of an iPod, mobile phone and PDA into one device.

Some notable features of the iPhone are:

* Icon-based graphical user interface
* Integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), EDGE, and Bluetooth
* 2.0 megapixel camera
* Runs OS X (it is not clear how significantly different this is from Apple’s computer operating system, Mac OS X)
o Safari web browser
o A widget engine (it is not clear how significantly different this is from the Mac OS X Dashboard)
* Widescreen iPod music, video and photo functionality
o iPod portion features Cover Flow interface and 3-D effects
* Multi-touch screen interface (the “Home” button is the iPhone’s only physical front panel button)
o On-screen QWERTY keyboard
o Fingertip scrolling, pan, and zoom (by splaying two fingers) functions
* Built-in rechargeable battery with up to 5 hours of talk/video/browsing or up to 16 hours of audio playback

This is going to be a new brand of mobile phone. It’s interesting how the iPhone has the sleek look of a hypothetical 6th generation iPod with a widescreen touchpad as well as styling cues from popular sliding phones such as the LG Chocolate. In terms of the PDA features, the iPhone has free push email powered by Yahoo! that is sorely lacking in Blackberrys, Google map, and contains OS X. The only downside to the iPhone that it is currently exclusive in America by AT&T’s Cingular mobile carrier; but it will be only a matter of time before we learn how to unlock an iPhone so that it can be used by anyone under a GSM carrier.

So far, the iPhone is a threat to manufacturers such as Research in Motion (Blackberry), Microsoft (Zune), Reigncom (iRiver), and the other mobile manufacturers such as LG and Samsung. Although Apple has partnered with Motorola in the past to introduce iTunes into some of their phones, I found it strange that Apple chose not to find a partner to manufacture and develop the iPhone and instead went about developing it in secret. What was even more interesting is that Apple only formed partnerships with other companies only when it needed Web 2.0 features, such as search functions or social networking. The more interesting aspects of the iPhone is the fully functional Wi-Fi which seems to be a first for a mobile phone and the ability to hold conference calls.

So Microsoft made a product called the Zune that was supposed to be superior to Apple’s iPod with selling points such as Wi-Fi and social networking. On the other hand, LinkSys’s iPhone is essentially a java-powered mobile phone that can operate as a browser and a VoIP phone while Blackberry is a fusion of the ultimate PDA and phone. The iPhone is one of the ultimate mergers among a digital media player, mobile phone, PDA, browser with Web 2.0 features. However, Apple is being realistic with their expectations by projecting at least a 1% market share in the mobile market due to their starting prices of a 4 GB model for $499, and a 8 GB model for $599 on a 2-year  contract.

Well, it’s safe to say the Zune is now officially dead on arrival and on it’s way to relative obscurity…

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