I agree with Lance Ulanoff in his recent story in PC magazine on Microsoft's Zune announcements. Ulanoff's assessment was that Microsoft has shown some serious savvy with its latest Zune enhancements. The Xbox has always been a strong contender in the home entertainment server category; the technology's been there, though it's been weakly marketed. At some point, Microsoft realized the Xbox had a secondary (some would say primary) niche as a "media extender," the significance of which is possibly more important now that it's dawning on many consumers how clumsily the cable companies are providing for home entertainment HD options (a story for another day).
As elsewhere reported by PC magazine, the new Zune due out later this year for U.S. markets is to include HD audio and video, Wi-Fi and a touch screen.
It's not the Zune alone that has my attention, but rather the power of the Zune - XBox - Sharepoint Learning SDK suite that has potential for eLearning / distant learning applications. Learning content can be acquired wirelessly, played either remotely, or in high performance 3D at home for virtual spaces like Second Life or game engine-enabled content. With Sharepoint's learning SDK, SCORM compliant metrics can be aggregated and tracked, either within subcommunities or for academic/industry institutions.
There are other eLearning "stacks," to be sure, but Microsoft's has the potential to raise the bar for what is possible without leaving home.
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