A revelatory piece by investigative journalist Brier Dudley in yesterday’s Seattle Times claims that J Allard’s much-hyped, hugely secretive “iPod-killer” will also play games as part of a full line-up of Xbox-branded products.
According to Dudley, the project is apparently code-named 'Argo' – the name of Greek mythological hero Jason’s ship, as opposed to, say, code-name 'Troj', after the mythological Trojan Horse.
Or, should you choose to believe gadget site Gizmodo, project 'Argo' is now apparently finally named 'Zune'. Either way, true or false, it’s good to see that the names being bandied about are as equally ludicrous as Xbox 360 and Wii. SPOnG expects nothing less.
For the purposes of this news piece, we will refer to it
as the 'Zune’ – for no reason other than it's a superbly daft name and therefore, going by recent cultural trends in games industry product naming, highly likely to be a contender.
The rumour mill went into overdrive following earlier reports from Bloomberg of a planned iPod Rival (‘MiPod?’ suggested some wag in the SPOnG office earlier) in the pipeline supposedly launching this Christmas. Rumours of a portable Xbox project have of course been floating around for some time now, many emanating from Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury News, who has recently written a detailed and well-received book on the Xbox project. Read SPOnG's reports on these from earlier in the year right here.
Back to the 'Zune'. Dudley outlines in his Seattle Times piece: “A few details trickled out last week from music companies that Microsoft is lining up to support the device. Microsoft isn't commenting, but I was able to piece together a broader picture with some research, reporting and information from a source close to the project. What's being developed is actually a complete line of Xbox-branded digital-media products, including a device that plays media, a software media player and an online media service.”
He added: “This is more than just another MP3 player. It will also compete with game players from Sony and Nintendo that have long had Wi-Fi and work as media players, Internet terminals and communication devices.”
Dudley also suggests that ‘the Zune’ will utilise Microsoft’s XNA game development toolkit, which enables developers to create titles for multiple platforms.
He also went onto speculate that, “...the timing of the hype cycle is perfect…Microsoft's annual meeting with financial analysts is July 27, and it's looking bleak. Wall Street is furious Microsoft won't be selling new versions of Windows and Office in the fall as promised….Argo [Zune] could help the December quarter and give executives something to discuss with analysts other than product delays, Bill Gates' departure and the high cost of doing battle with Google.”
It's all very interesting yet highly speculative stuff. Microsoft, as is the company's way with these things, has so far declined to offer any 'official' comment.
Expect to see a news update with more facts and fewer ‘rumours’ from insiders or moles in the coming days. In the meantime, to confuse the issue just a little more, check out this pic of 'The Zune' that's currently doing the rounds on the gadget blogs, and let us know what you think in the forum below.
(Main Sources: The Seattle Times, Gizmodo, Engadget)