By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: Japanese electronics maker, Toshiba Corporation, will manufacture Microsoft’s debut Zune mp3 player, according to a filing made to the US Federal Communications Commission, which also stated the player will be available before the end of 2006.

Microsoft has confirmed the contents of the filing, naming Toshiba as the manufacturer of its player, which will possibly be pitted against Apple’s iPod this Christmas.

The FCC filing has revealed new details about the functionality of the Zune player. Toshiba referred to the device as the Pyxis, and described a virtual MySpace portable device where users can send or receive songs and images from other Pyxis devices at the push of a button.

By using the DJ function (which can be toggled on or off) users will be able to eavesdrop on others users, allowing them to search, listen to or even swap music on other users’ players, without the need for any verbal communication.

The filing also specified the device will feature a three-inch LCD screen, FM radio tuner and 30GB hard drive.
According to Microsoft, more information will be made available next month.

Toshiba currently manufactures the Gigabeat mp3 player, which has also been touted as a serious challenger to Apple’s iPod.

However, the 30GB Gigabeat retails for approximately $460, so whether the Zune player follows suit on pricing is yet to be seen, but such an RRP could see it struggling to make a dent in Apple’s iPod dominance.

Last year in Australia, sales of mp3 players grew by 180 per cent compared to 2004, and approximately 60 per cent of those sold were Apple iPods.