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Monday, July 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Music players soon to be from A to Z

Microsoft's answer to the iPod should be on sale by the end of the year.

That means the music-player world will be covered from A to Z — the Apple iPod to the Microsoft Zune and everything in between.

Apple Computer Chief Steve Jobs predicted as much in January when he said: "What's going to happen is that Microsoft is going to have to get into the hardware business of making MP3 players. This year."

Here's what Microsoft said Friday: "We confirmed a new music and entertainment project called Zune. Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year. We see a great opportunity to bring together technology and community to allow consumers to explore and discover music together."

Other reactions poured in.

Microsoft Watch: "The biggest challenge for Microsoft, at least in the short term, will be to make sure the Zune reality measures up to the hype, so the company doesn't repeat its overpromising/underdelivering strategy, as it did with the 'Origami' Ultra-Mobile PCs."

Microsoft Monitor: "The time has come when Microsoft is willing to compete, and sometimes fiercely so, with its partners."

TechCrunch: "It will be interesting to see if the company can take a position of real innovation or whether Zune will just be a case of playing catch-up — at the risk of feature overload."

High-tech fans

Two weeks ago, we told you that Styx, the platinum-selling classic rock band, wrote in its blog that it was looking for someone to donate a Junxion Box.

The Junxion Box is a product of Seattle-based Junxion that allows you to plug in a cellular broadband data card to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal.

Styx band members wanted one so they can have Internet access when they are at a concert in the middle of nowhere. Would they get their wish when playing at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Aug. 23?

Turns out, their wish has been granted. Before Junxion was able to reach the roadies with a free Junxion Box, the band's fans donated an impressive $900 to a PayPal account.

Still, Junxion came through, and found out what a box is really worth — the band gave tickets for every Junxion employee to see the show next month.

It's in the numbers

Amazon.com Chief Executive Jeff Bezos has made a private investment in 37Signals through his personal investment company, Bezos Expeditions.

The Chicago-based company makes popular Web-based applications such as the project-management program Basecamp and the personal organizer Backpack.

The names fit handily with the expedition theme, but it's hard to know what else Bezos finds captivating about the startup.

Maybe there's a link with 43Things, the social-networking venture funded by Amazon. Bezos proved to be a welcome investor: 37Signals chose him over 30 other venture-capital firms.

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or biztech@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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