With the release of the Zune, music sharing has become available on a portable device. However, the implementation is pretty weak ā€“ at least in my opinion. The 3x3 rules, while seemingly sensible, do not really address the real benefit of wireless. Apple already has a wireless protocol with Bon Jour (previously Rendezvous). A multicast method of identifying and communicating with remote music-enabled devices, Bon Jour is what enables you to share iTunes libraries and play music remotely on the Airport Express.

With the new iPod, Apple should add 802.11b/g (including an on/off switch, buried deep in the menu system of course) and allow it to participate in ad-hoc (for unit-to-unit sharing) as well as infrastructure networking. Once network enabled, the iPod could use the same protocols that iTunes uses for music sharing allow the iPod to see music shared on desktop computers at home (like an iMac, Mac Mini, or a Windows desktop), other iPods in the area, and some of the network network attached storage systems (NAS) such as the DNS-323 from D-Link.

The iPod would also have the ability to locate and use remote speakers just like iTunes. Not only should this work with the Airport Express, but any iTV device that Apple releases. In fact, Iā€™d like to be able to stream to a Mac Mini attached to my HDTV system via the optical output in that device. Since the Mac Mini is potentially an iTV box on steroids, it should be treated like any other iTunes enabled device on the network. I guess streaming to the PC should also be allowed (while running iTunes, allowing music to be routed through the speakers).

All of these streaming features would be great, but there could also eventually be network-enabled car stereos that could be used as remote speakers using Bon Jour. This would seriously help establish the audio playback and audio control protocols used by iTunes as a defacto standard. The protocol is open and tools exist to build utilities to remotely control iTunes, it would just be a matter of time before you could remotely control your car stereo from your iPod. Not to mention play your music library on your iPod from your car stereo.

These consumer-oriented features really wake-up the iPod to make it a more social experience (no cliche intended to the Zune) and could really bury the competition until they license the patents from Apple to make their players play nicely on the shared network. By using some tricks to keep power consumption low (such as reduced transmission power, low power sleep modes, etc.), battery life could be reasonable and even unchanged if the user simply turns it off.