David Caulton from Zunester explains exactly what you can and can't do with WiFi on the Zune in his post over at Zunester
. The explanation is a mixed bag - it's pretty much what I was expecting, though some of it's a disappointment. Here's what you can do out of the box:
- You can discover nearby Zunes to create an ad-hoc network (Zune to Zune) and interact with those players. Range is an unknown at this point. It's WiFi based, so one would hope it would be a few hundred feet, but it's also going to be a low-power chipset so they may have sacrificed range in order to achieve greater battery life. Given the scenarios related to music sharing, I don't imagine you'd need to have 1000 feet of range.
- Once connected to that other Zune, you can send it a song or an entire album. The tracks are wrapped in a 3/3 DRM package: the songs can be kept for three plays or three days, whichever comes first. After that, the songs are deleted the next time the Zune is synched. Notice they're not deleted immediately on the device - and since the Zune is an updated Gigabeat S PMC, there's probably no delete function on the device itself. That could make for some full hard drives if a lot of Zune owners get together and don't sync often.
- There's a lot of confusion about the 3/3 DRM. I've asked for clarification from a Microsoft contact: what happens if I create a song in ACID, put it on my Zune, and want to share it with everyone else. Will that song, wholly my own creation, have DRM on it? Some sites are reporting yes, some sites are reporting no. I aim to answer the question once and for all shortly...
- Transmitted songs include all the metadata and album art. No word yet on whether the Zune supports embedded album art. I'm waiting on a response from a Microsoft contact on that issue.
- You can send photos for unlimited viewing, and they can sync back to the PC. I imagine that means 320 x 240 JPEGs, which I presume is what the Zune will transcode the images to, unless the Zune desktop app allows for more control than Windows Media Player 11 (doubtful).
So that's the good news - none of it unexpected given what we know of the Zune so far. Equally unexpected is the news of what the Zune will not be able to do at launch:
- The Zune will not be able to connect to the Internet
- The Zune will not be able to download songs over the air from the Zune Marketplace
- The Zune will not synchronize with your PC using WiFi
Frankly, I'm disappointed, though not all that surprised. It would have been a killer scenario to be able to load up your Zune with new content sitting at the airport (from the Zune Marketplace) or sitting in your bed (from your PC). Those are scenarios that blow open the current paradigm of digital audio players being slaves to desktops and laptops, and Microsoft isn't taking advantage of them. Why? I suspect it's the same old thing that guides most new products: do a few things, do them well, then add on more new things in the next version. The question is, will that be enough to make a splash in the market?