Microsoft media player more than iPod copycat?

Since last month, word has been circulating that Microsoft is cooking up a rival to Apple's iPod and iTunes combo. Reuters reported last week that the Microsoft media player device would launch by Christmas, that it would feature Wi-Fi connectivity, and that Xbox team VP J Allard was involved in its development. A new report by Seattle Times columnist Brier Dudley has shed a little more light on the subject. Dudley says Microsoft is readying a "complete line of Xbox-branded digital-media products," including the media player device, an online media service, and a software media player. The device—reportedly code-named "Argo"—is being developed within Microsoft's Xbox group, and J Allard is spearheading the project.

Dudley also suggests the so-called Argo could have game-playing capabilities. "Argo is likely to showcase ... XNA, a new toolkit that helps game developers create titles for multiple platforms," Dudley says, adding that Argo will compete with Sony and Nintendo's hand-held game consoles. That said, Gizmodo has word from insiders that the Argo—or "Zune," which it says is the final name—has no game menu in its user interface. Gizmodo says gaming functionality could make its way into the second iteration of the device, though.

In addition to these reports, Engadget has managed to appropriate a picture of a supposed Argo prototype. The picture comes straight from a mole working on the project, Engadget says.

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