Creative's ZEN X-Fi player is still in progress and is being more directly targeted at Apple on both the hardware and software sides, says a slew of leaked information obtained by epiZENter. Spotted in an official product shot, the X-Fi changes the look of the original ZEN to an aluminum-and-chrome look believed to be drawing heavily on the visual appeal of the iPhone. According to leaked documents from the company's UK website, the new ZEN will also be Creative's first wireless player and will have a unique nine-point directional pad to take advantage of integrated Wi-Fi: users will have the option of instant messaging on Windows Live or Yahoo Messenger with a phone-style system for typing without either a touchscreen or a full QWERTY keyboard.
The device's wireless access will also be trumpeted for its media sharing features, which are still relatively rare among its competitors. On a local network, the ZEN X-Fi will have access to a host computer's own content to play it in another room. An Internet-based media pool, described as a Public Home Server, should also give access to at least some content at virtually any other Wi-Fi hotspot.
Reflecting its name, the portable player will have X-Fi audio technology borrowed from the company's sound cards and will use it either to restore lost detail in MP3s and other compressed files, as with most X-Fi devices, or to create a concert-like audio effect that puts the sound at the front of the user, even with earbuds or headphones.
An SD card slot will carry over from the original ZEN, but a built-in speaker will be new, according to Creative. Notably, not every ZEN X-Fi will have wireless abilities, suggesting a model range split that gives more expensive models the wireless option.
The release of the ZEN X-Fi should further mark the release of Creative's first jukebox software that plays more than audio. Named Creative Centrale, the software will also play and manage photos and videos and is considered integral to the ZEN X-Fi's sharing feature. Although details are still unclear at this stage, Centrale will allow users to rip DVDs and will create a home server for wireless music sharing similar to iTunes' sharing ability; it's also expected to play into the creation of the Public Media Server.
A release date for the new player is uncertain, though the now on-again ZEN X-Fi was recently hinted by a Creative official to appear no later than July, while epiZENter itself alludes to the possibility of an announcement within two days.
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