After offering confirmation of recent reports that Microsoft will release an iPod-competitive media player called Zune, representatives of iPod accessory manufacturers have disclosed to iLounge that the Redmond, Washington-based company has contacted them regarding potential accessory licensing and compatibility plans for the device, similar to Apple’s Made For iPod program. Like all current iPods except for the iPod shuffle, Zune will feature a proprietary expansion port that Microsoft will allow companies to accessorize at a lower rate than the Made For iPod program, and one which a source suggests will likely lead to widespread iPod industry third-party support for the new device.
Additionally, iLounge has heard that Zune will most likely follow Apple’s recent decision – as seen in the upcoming Nike+iPod Sport Kit – to use some form of proprietary wireless communication technology, eschewing the open Bluetooth standard in favor of one developed at least in part by Microsoft. As previously reported, the Nike+iPod Sport Kit uses an Apple-developed version of 802.11, which may offer bandwidth and other benefits over the various flavors of Bluetooth, but could lock third-party developers out from creating compatible accessories. It is unclear whether Microsoft’s technology, which reportedly enables music “sharing” between multiple Zune users, will resemble Apple’s in all regards, but it will likely be available to third-party developers for accessorization. A recent competing music player, MusicGremlin’s Gremlin MG-1000, already uses the open 802.11b standard for its wireless functionality, a decision which enables the device to connect to existing Wi-Fi home and hotspot network locations. Future digital music players may support one or more 802.11 standards to guarantee both Wi-Fi network and proprietary accessory compatibility.