CrunchGear broke the story yesterday and now it's spreading around the Net like wildfire: the very real possiblity (according to sources) that Microsoft is working on a Zune mobile phone that could be ready by the end of the year.
Sources suggest that it'll be a smartphone that works with the Zune marketplace and can sync with the Xbox 360. It will run an interface similar to that of Zune, rather than Windows Mobile, which makes sense if it's building on the Zune's capabilities.
A filing that Microsoft submitted Monday to the Federal Communications Commission suggests that the company will likely add phone to a hand-held media players (Zune?).
According to the filing, Microsoft and other firms will submit for the agency's approval a prototype of a wireless device that could be used to talk over the Internet. Apple Inc. made a similar filing, although chose a different technology, in advance of announcing its iPhone in January.
In the filing, Microsoft describes a wireless device that utilizes OFDM, a technology that can be used to route digital TV and voice calls among devices. Versions of OFDM have been tested and deployed for mobile phone use by carriers including Sprint Nextel Corp. and closely-held Clearwire Corp.
Microsoft says that the intended use of the device is "consumer broadband access and networking."
The FCC filing makes no mention of the Zune, though Rob Enderle, an analyst with the research firm the Enderle Group, said the filing seems to indicate "an internet device or a mobile VoIP phone," that "certainly could be a Zune derivative product." Enderle said the Zune's current wireless capability only enables peer-to-peer sharing.
A VoIP-enabled Zune would differ greatly from the iPhone, which is intended for use on cellular networks. AT&T Inc.'s Cingular Wireless network will be the first to carry the iPhone.
Enderle said that Microsoft would likely want to avoid partnering with large cellular carriers, who would demand a high level of control over product launches.
The filing also includes questions from officials about device specifications and Microsoft's official replies to those queries. A Microsoft spokesman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
- Microsoft's Zune hits the shelves (15 November, 2006)