Microsoft Argo Speculation Flies

    July 12, 2006

Everybody’s talking about a portable device Microsoft is developing, code-named “Argo”. Lets take a look:

The Seattle Times says Microsoft recently met with some music industry folks to support the device, which will be part of a new line of Xbox-branded media devices. It is being developed under the Xbox group by J Allard, as well as the folks who build MSN Music. It has wi-fi, and utilizes the excellent XNA programming framework to allow easy creation of cross-platform gaming titles.

Argo 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.

I had thought Microsoft would put its holiday marketing effort behind Urge, a music service it developed with MTV and bundled into Windows Vista’s new media-player software. It’s helping device makers produce players that show off Urge and the software. Now, those efforts are in parallel with Argo.

On the surface it seems like a rebuke of the Windows team that has carried Microsoft’s digital-media torch. It’s also a test of Chief Executive Steve Ballmer and his reorganization of the company. Has he truly made the product groups more autonomous? Can Xbox’s young guns get past the old guard with a less Windows-centric venture?

Slashdot calls it a “hedge against analysts”. While all the talk would indicate this is the real thing, wouldn’t it be funny if someone was just passing around the rumor to stabilize the stock price for a few more months?

1UP says to look forward to this year’s X06 conference, in late September.

Bloomberg says it will be out by Christmas, giving Microsoft something to sell for the holidays, what with no new Vista or Office.

Someone sent Engadget a picture of a prototype. The thing looks sweet, with a screen reminiscint of the Gigabeat (tall, but turn sideways to watch) and a very minimalist set of controls. They also had some very blurry pictures of a very similar device last month.

Gizmodo says the final name may be the “Zune”. Blech! How about a mispronounciation, and the real name being “Xone” (as in X1, to be followed by names like Xtwo and Xthree)? I’d like that better than “Zune”.

Anythingbutipod says it will have a standard 1.8″ hard drive and a 320240 screen.

Techdirt says there is a rumor that Microsoft’s music service will let you tranfer your purchased iPod music collection to their service for free, giving you free downloads, getting around iPod lock-in.

UPDATE: Gizmodo says there is an iPod Nano competitor also developing that may be called Pixas. Engadget has a Zune logo.

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Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

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