Monday, March 2, 2009
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 05:31 PM
There's an update coming to Zune, but it's not what some of us were hoping for. I'm at the Microsoft MVP Summit right now and was in a meeting with Jessica Zahn where she shared the information about this update. And unlike most of what's being discussed here, this topic wasn't under NDA so I can share the information with you.
Zune.net and Zune Marketplace will be down tonight, starting at 9pm Pacific Time, for several hours to facilitate this update. There's no device update, nor any desktop software update. So what does the change entail? First, they're moving to a new datacenter, from Seattle to another part of Washington. Everything Zune is getting moved over to the new datacenter, and while users might not notice a difference right away, the new datacenter has room to grow as Zune grows. Nothing too exciting there.
Figure 1: The podcasts page on Zune.net.
There are two features coming in this update that aren't related to the data centre. The first is that audio and video podcasts are now available for subscribing and streaming (audio only) to on Zune.net (shown above), using Silverlight. There are 12,000 podcasts available, making Zune.net one of the largest audio podcast libraries online. The bad news, and you knew this was coming, is that this is a US only feature - the streaming audio will not function if you're outside the US.
I doubt I'll use this feature personally, but I'm frustrated to see the Zune team going down this well-worn IP blocking path yet again. It's troublesome that once again they're being US-centric with new features. The reason? The video podcasts don't stream (they're waiting for enhanced codec support in Silverlight) so they link to the Zune desktop software client for those. Because no one outside the US has the Marketplace showing by default (you have to change your Windows location to see it), this is a broken experience, so they disabled this for anyone outisde the US. Why didn't they use a different set of code or linking method for audio and video podcasts, enabling users anywhere in the world to stream audio podcasts? No clue. Maybe next version.
Figure 2: The individual podcast view page on Zune.net.
The Music Trivia game, initially discussed last year, is also included in this update. You can create music quizzes, linking to the music you're talking about. Looks like it might be fun - I'm not aware of music-related quizzes with previews on any other social networking site out there now. The last feature added to Zune .net is RSS in the forums. You can subscribe at the forum level, getting RSS updates when there are new threads. At the thread level, you use the email subscription feature to keep updated on threads.
And that's it for the update - nothing earth shattering, but a step forward for people using Zune.net.