Microsoft's Misunderstood "Mystery Device"

I was in a seminar all day yesterday, so I missed this until a reporter contacted me. Apparently, some bloggers and news outlets went ballistic about a “mystery application” with the FCC that Microsoft filed, supposedly for a phone version of the Zune music player.

No one appears to have read the actual filing, readily available from the FCC website. It’s pretty clear, and tells a different story. First of all, it’s not an application to certify a device. It’s a letter answering questions about a prototype, and it has to do with the FCC white spaces proceeding, which I’ve written about.

Microsoft and a coalition of other companies including Dell, HP, Intel, and Google are pushing the FCC to allow low-power unlicensed “underlay” usage of wireless frequencies currently occupied by TV broadcasters. The broadcasters oppose this. One argument they make is that it’s not technically feasible for an unlicensed device to operate that way, and not interfere with the licensed broadcast signals. So, obviously, Microsoft and its allies have built a prototype to show they are wrong.

Microsoft may be planning a Zune phone. I have no idea. This device ain’t it.

Even if it’s something that eventually will become a Microsoft product (unclear), the FCC hasn’t even approved unlicensed use in the white spaces yet. And they very well may not. Best cast scenario, it will be a couple years before we see commercial white-space underlay devices. I’m a big supporter of these unlicensed uses, and have been for years. But let’s not get carried away with incorrect assumptions.