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All posts tagged "Zune"

Friday, January 16, 2009

Zune's Not Dead (So Stop Asking!)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 07:00 PM


"The demise of the Zune as a device is premature. In an interview with the P-I, Entertainment and Devices President Robbie Bach acknowledged that "We have already started to see some flattening and even declining in the stand-alone MP3 player market. I think you'll see that continue." But he also said he did not think the device would go away, at least in the short term. "I just think it's not going to be where most of the growth is," he said. "We have some great assets in the software we do for the Zune -- both on the PC and on the Zune device -- as well as the services we provide -- Zune Social, Zune Marketplace. We see opportunities for those beyond what we do on the device itself."

It's amazing how easily a two-sentence sound bite can be taken out of context. Steve Balmer and Robbie Bach's comments last week about the future of Zune have lead many tech bloggers to declare that the Zune project is on its last legs. Sure, Zunes haven't been selling as well as they probably should have by this point, but there are several fairly easy ways to get into the black—most of which Microsoft should've done since the beginning. Things like releasing internationally, putting the platform on more hardware, and a deeper integration with other Microsoft services would be a great start, and to what I think Balmer was referring. Others, like C|Net's Matt Assay think Microsoft should get out of the media player business altogether:

"Microsoft should not be in the Zune business. Period. No amount of Apple envy should have taken Microsoft into the Zune, and its best option is a quick exit. Let's face it: Microsoft is not cool. That's reality. It's an enterprise software company and, however much one may dress up enterprise software, it's still not sexy or cool. Billions of dollars in profit, however, is cool, and Microsoft has that in spades. Sure, it risks losing out on the digital-entertainment revolution by not having a music delivery platform, but there are other ways to get into that business without trying to beat Apple at its own game."

Chris at GotZune rightfully tears into this argument, but I couldn't let this level of stupidity go by unchecked. It would be foolhardy of Microsoft to go into the next decade without a strong content distribution and entertainment platform. And, as the developer of the world's most popular operating system, is in the best position to bring connected entertainment to the masses. Far from being irrelevant, I believe Zune actually fits perfectly in with the "three-screen" strategy Balmer unveiled at CES. As entertainment that perfectly spans all three media (PC, mobile, TV), games, music, and video have the opportunity to be constantly connected and deeply integrated with Microsoft's other Internet- and cloud-based services. Marketplace (with Zune Pass) on the Zune device is already a great example of this. Extending Zune service to Xbox and Windows Mobile platforms will fill in key experiences for consumers and ensure Microsoft's relevance for years to come.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why Zune Beats the iPod... Seriously

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 12:00 AM


"Okay, we know that the Zune doesn’t beat the iPod where it matters (sales) so this is sort of like BetaMax/VHS but the Zune really is an increasingly impressive device. I’m beginning to wonder if it’ll become the cult device that is sort of cooler than the iPod but not as popular. Sound familiar?"

Jeff Blankenburg shares his thoughts on why the Zune is better than the iPod (seriously) and they're all important. He's got all the usual suspects (Zune Pass, FM radio, wireless sharing and syncing) but also mentions a few others, like Zune Originals, the consistently updated firmware, and how anyone can make games for their Zunes. Click through to see each of these points discussed in depth, and maybe pass it on to your "iPod owning uncle" at Christmastime.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Order Your Gears of War 2 Zune

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 02:00 AM


You want your own Gears of Wars 2 Zune, complete with 120 GB of storage, the original Gears of War soundtrack (why not the GOW2 soundtrack I wonder?), and 244 images? Sure ya' do. Order one now for $279.00 USD.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gears of War 2 Zune Unboxing Photos

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 03:00 PM


"With Gears of War 2 getting ready to drop tomorrow, bringing Submergence Day to all fans of the franchise, Microsoft is also releasing a Gears of War 2 Limited Edition Zune. You might remember that they did something similar with the original Zune to coincide with the release of Halo 3. With the GOW2 Zune, Microsoft has pre-loaded a bunch of Gears content on the device itself. A bunch of images of art, the entire Gears of War soundtrack, along with quite a few pieces of video content related to both Gears of War and Gears of War 2."

Andru Edwards got his hands on the Gears of War 2 Zune, and has taken some photos of the unboxing experience. What a great looking Zune...hot damn!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Zune Originals Come-a-Rockin'

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 01:54 PM


UGO published some news today about six new Zune originals designs that are coming to the Zune Originals Web site. I'm not sure if they'll be up on the Canadian version of the Zune Originals site - I like quite a few of these designs! Check 'em all out after the break.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

TuneWiki Social Media Player

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 04:00 PM


"First, Intel decided to go with Linux for its MIDs, and now it's giving the bird to Microsoft again by revealing a contender to the Zune's social music aspect. TuneWiki, a “social media player” software based on Intel's Atom processor integrates music and video with synchronized lyrics and a social network. Besides using a wiki-based community to contribute content, TuneWiki also displays real-time music popularity lists, the locations of other TuneWiki users based on your favorite songs and artists, and the ability to check out music from other countries with translated lyrics. It's an interesting new app for the (MID-using) international crowd, but will it take off States-side?"

Although I've had my doubts about the social aspects of the Zune, the fact that it is getting copied leads me to believe that they might just be on to something.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Zune: Now a Viable iPod Alternative?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 10:00 AM


"The Zune has a long way to go to become a threat to the iPod. But it is getting closer...and it became clear that there are a few things Apple can learn from the Zune...I found the Zune's Marketplace feature easy and definitely satisfying...Mixview is miles above the Genius feature...clearly Microsoft is making strides - and maybe making consumers think twice before running out to buy a new iPod."

The smattering of quotes above were pulled from this ABC News article that compares the Zune to the new Apple Nano iPod. What's worthy of noting is that while the article clearly acknowledges that Apple is the market leader, the Zune measures up quite nicely against Apple's newest Nano. Even more worthy of noting is that since the new Zune 3.0 software and devices launched in September, I've been watching the reviews and articles take on a decidedly more positive tone toward the Zune compared to what was written about it in November of 2007. Read more...

Tags: Zune, Apple, iPod Nano

Monday, September 22, 2008

Backwards Compatibility As A Business Decision

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 02:00 PM


"Even with a big update, there are still many areas where the Zune comes up short when compared to Apple's iPod. It's easy to argue that Apple still has the lead in styling, breadth of video content, add-on accessories, and software and compatibility. (Zune works only on Windows PCs.) Not to mention the fact that Microsoft has nothing to match Apple's iPod Touch with its ability to surf the Web and run a wide range of add-on programs. But there are a couple of areas where Microsoft deserves significant credit. The most important, from my perspective, is that every feature that Microsoft has added to the Zune is available for free to owners of previous generation Zunes."

I was tempted to write off this article by CNet's Ina Fried as yet another article praising Microsoft for making the 3.0 and 2.0 firmware backwards-compatible with every Zune device--something Apple and other PMP makers should have done since the start. After reading the article, however, it becomes clear that Microsoft made a strong commitment to its customers, not just in avoiding planned obsolescence, but in building up the ecosystem to provide value for every Zune owner. If I have the latest blue Zune 16), but my buddy is still rocking the brown Zune 30 that he bought back in 2006, I'm still able to beam him my favorite podcast, play him (eventually) in Texas Hold 'Em, and get that photo he took of us last week to set as a background. In centering this latest update around music discovery, Microsoft has built a strong motivation to sign up for the Zune Pass and Zune Social, both of which end up being beneficial to Zune owners and Microsoft alike.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Zune Colours on the Horizon?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Hardware" @ 10:25 AM


Whenever a new version of the Zune software comes out, adventurous individuals engage in what's called "resource file hacking" - they crack open the Zune software files that contain the images that the Zune software shows when you connect a Zune. This is how we've heard about nearly every new colour for the Zune, and history has repeated itself again when a Zuneboards member discovered these new colours. A blue Zune 120 would be awesome, and I'm surprised how much I like the white ones. What do you think of these colours? I think they should release that 16 GB Citron Zune!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

GotZune Reviews the iHome Zn9 Alarm Clock/Audio System

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Accessories" @ 08:30 PM


"The most important feature of course with this product is the alarm feature. The ZN9 features two separate alarms, each of which can be programmed for 7, 5, or 2 days a week. You can also set your ZN9 alarms to wake you up to either the radio, a built in buzzer, or the zune itself. For setting the zune to function, you are required to have your zune set to the song you want. When the alarm starts up in the morning it will initiate the "play" function of the zune and the song begins. There is also a nice and gradual about 10-15 second increase as the music begins to play. If your zune happens to not be correctly set for this to take place, or the zune is not even docked, the ZN9 recognizes this and resorts to the buzzer alarm. Snooze time can also be set to the range of 1 to 29 minutes. The alarms are quite easy to use, simple to disable/enable, and incase of a power failure will still go off(in buzzer form) due to the backup battery's in the device."

GotZune has a great write-up on the iHome Zn9 Clock Radio/Audio System, which should be perfect for anyone in the market for an alarm clock they can use with their Zune. If you've ever wanted to wake up (or fall asleep) to your favorite playlists, check out the article and sound off there. The Zn9 doubles as a a speaker dock and charge station, and is useful if you want to wirelessly sync your Zune to your PC. Plus, if you're like Mr. Soccerfreak24 and hate auto sync, you can even it off from your device (well, technically you didn't need a dock to do that, but it's nice to have the excuse.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

State of the Zune 2.0 Union, 9 Months In

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 07:00 AM

Zune fans, we're just a bit over 9 months into the life of the second-generation Zune, and I thought it was time to take stock of where we're at, and what things need to be fixed, and added, for the Zune to continue moving forward. Since launch, we've had a couple of minor firmware updates, and the big Spring 2.5 update, so if the pattern continues we should see something new from the Zune team this holiday season. Here are my own thoughts about the state of the Zune union. Things that I think need fixing, replacing, or adding. Read more...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Zune Goes to Denver (And Minneapolis-Saint Paul too!)

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 11:30 PM


"Microsoft's just slapped together a pair of special edition Zunes for both the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions and they look pretty damn great. The one for the DNC is awarded for the winner of the "Green Delegate Challenge", which is contest for delegations that "demonstrate the highest level of commitment to offsetting their carbon footprint from attending the Convention.". Theirs has a nice looking tree on the back. The RNC's, on the other hand, just has the blurb about environmental stuff as well as the picture of the RNC logo. Oh, and it's red, not green."

As we reported back in April, Microsoft is going to have quite a big presence at the 2008 US conventions, with Surface tables and customized Zunes aplenty. This is an interesting strategy in tying these currently "hot" events into Microsoft's hipper product lines, and it's something you definitely wouldn't see Apple trying to do, but is it the right move?

Click through to Mobility Site to see both of the designs in full.

Friday, August 22, 2008

120 GB Zune Confirmed...But You Already Knew That

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 04:14 PM

Not much to see here, but I just got word from Zune team member Cesar Menendez (of Zune Insider fame) that the 120 GB Zune we saw in the FCC docs is official:

"You've probably all seen about 120GB @the FCC- and just wanted to send you a note to confirm that is indeed part of the plan. There's definitely more details coming in the way of new software and hardware, pricing etc."

So we know it's coming, and it's real. The mention of new software, hardware, and pricing sounds interesting! Let's see what next couple of months will bring...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Online Music Ripoff

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Digital Home Talk" @ 02:00 AM


"Why is DRM so contentious? Surely it's designed to protect the rights of artists and record companies in a climate where, as one international music industry body claims, illegal downloads swamp legitimate music store downloads by a ratio of 20 to 1? The problem is DRM doesn't affect the pirates, who upload and download DRM-free files often ripped directly from CD. Instead, it affects legitimate buyers in a range of deeply irritating ways. The first roadblock comes down to Gates' talk of "simplicity" and "interoperability", or rather the lack of both"

I think most people who know anything about DRM hate it. They hate dealing with the limitations of the technology, both intentionally built-in or as a direct result of poor technical planning/implementation. Unlike a good protection scheme which is invisible to the end user, DRM is too limiting to the average customer, and does nothing to stop hardcore music pirates. Plus, when a store goes down and its licenses stop renewing, the customer is the real loser. Sure you can burn your songs to a CD and re-rip them (or do it virtually), but the process is time-consuming and you lose audio fidelity. Another option is to free your purchased music using tools like FairUse4WM (above) or Hymn, or just buy DRM-free in the first place. Check out the article if you need yet another reason to hate DRM.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Griffin Technologies Releases iTrip Universal

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Accessories" @ 03:11 PM


"Use with any audio source that uses a 1/8"(3.5mm) headphone jack-iPod, Sansa, Zune, portable CD players, you name it. Recharge iTrip universal's internal battery in any USB port (no more replacing batteries!), then connect to your player with the included stereo audio cable. Three user-programmable presets save the best frequencies so you can access them quickly later. User selectable stereo/mono output. Wherever you go, iTrip Universal is the perfect partner for your portable audio."

If you want to broadcast the audio from your MP3 player, phone, or anything with with a 3.5mm headphone jack to a nearby FM radio, this looks like a great solution. The battery in the iTrip Universal is only 180 mAh though, so I take their statement of being able to broadcast for "hours" to mean "more than one hour". It's a bit surprising they don't have an actual rating for the battery life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NYTimes: Zune Only Selling to iPod Haters

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Talk" @ 03:00 PM


"When the Microsoft Zune digital music player first appeared, it was the latest in a long line of gizmos to which the phrase 'iPod killer' was hopefully attached. And let's be clear about something: This column makes absolutely no suggestion that there is any credible evidence that this is happening. The most recent figures from NPD Group, the retail-data collector, showed Apple's device holding 70 percent of the MP3-player market, compared with 3 percent for the Zune. (This put Microsoft in third place, behind SanDisk, at 10 percent.)... But the most salient feature of the Zune seems to be that it’s not an iPod."

The New York Times Magazine's Consumed column always offers an interesting outside perspective on trends among consumer products. This week, Rob Walker sets his sites on Zune buyers, wondering why anyone would consider a Zune if Apple's iPod is seemingly fine for most people. Walker concludes that the only people who buy a Zune do so simply because it isn't an iPod. As Ars Technica points out, this just isn't the case; "Zune would still be selling if the iPod didn't exist. Consumers aren't simply buying the Zune because they don't like the iPod: there are features (like wireless sync) that the iPod doesn't have and that some consumers want. If the Zune didn't have unique features and Microsoft didn't keep trying to add them, it wouldn't succeed against the other, non-iPod competition."

One only needs to look to websites like the excellent AnythingButiPod to see the market for non-iPod players is still quite large. In order to have any success in this market, the Zune team will need to show not only why it is different from the iPod, but also how it will tap into the market that does not yet own an MP3 player. Things like the recent Hollywood/Zune whisperings should help expand its reach some.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"Zune Phone" a Nokia?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune News" @ 12:30 PM


"Nokia is currently working with the Zune team on integration of Zune Marketplace content according to a well placed source within Microsoft. The joint development is directed at content delivery rather than a hardware device according to the source. It has long been assumed by many tech followers that Zune content and software would find it's way onto Windows Mobile devices, thereby offering competition to the unfortunately popular iPhone. The interesting thing about the Nokia Zune partnership is that Nokia does not support Windows Mobile. It appears Microsoft may be developing a two front war against the iPhone, namely Windows based smart phones and more abundant 'non-smart' phones."

Take it or leave it, but Zune-Scene's reporting that if and when the Zune team releases a media player client for a mobile phone (a.k.a. the "Zune Phone", "zPhone" or "Pink and Purple project"), it won't be on Microsoft's own Windows Mobile platform as widely speculated, but on rival Nokia's series of smartphones. As with past Zune-Scene reports, this one is short on detail (e.g. no release date, lots of plausible deniability) and high on outlandish claims. While keeping this in mind, I should also point out that Zune-Scene's sources have been right on a number of these scoops in the past. This should be fun to watch as it develops.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fourth Generation iPod Nano Will Look Like a Zune?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Hardware & Accessories" @ 10:18 AM


"It may be hard to believe, but from what we've now heard from multiple sources, it's true: the fourth-generation iPod nano will look like... a Microsoft Zune. Well, sort of. Contradicting speculation that Apple was planning to transform the new nano into a miniature iPod touch, complete with a smaller touchscreen, we've been told that this year's nano upgrade will go in a different direction. Described by one source as looking like "a Zune Flash... or whatever it's called," the new nano has a vertically (tall) oriented display with a Click Wheel underneath, preserving the button-based control scheme that users have found easiest to use without looking down at the screen. The new nano's screen will gain the same 1.5:1 widescreen aspect ratio as the iPhone and iPod touch, versus the 1.33:1 ratio of the prior iPod nano and iPod classic, and you'll rotate the device to watch videos on it."

Does this surprise anyone else? It doesn't surprise me. The design of the Nano "fatty" never seemed particularly appealing to me - the screen was too small to be useful for, well, really anything. And it's not like the second generation Nano was too big - I liked the design it quite a bit, which is why I like the design of the Zune 4/8 so much. It's a nice balance of screen size and functionality, and about the only way I'd improve the outer design of the Zune 4/8 would be to make the screen bigger, nixing that huge bezel. I'm not convinced that a wide-screen aspect ratio screen is appropriate for a device this size - what do you think? I really want to see the Zune 80 gain a wide-aspect ratio, WVGA resolution screen, but on a device as small as the Zune 4/8...would you want to watch movies on it?

Tags: Zune, iPod 4G, Nano

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What Video Format and Bit Rate Do you Use on Your Zune?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 08:40 PM

I was doing a little experiment today with my Zune: I ripped a single chapter from a DVD, using CloneDVD Mobile [Affiliate], and I used their .mp4 preset. The program helpfully allows me to specify resolution and bit rate, so I wanted to see the ceiling the Zune had on bit rate. Ripping to 320 x 240 in resolution, I ripped three different files at 500 kbps, 1000 kbps, and 1500 kbps. The Zune 80 could play all three of - I knew it could handle the first two, but I wasn't sure if the processor could decode 1500 kbps MP4 files. At 320 x 240, 1500 kbps is probably overkill (I think 1000 kbps looks identical), but if you're ripping to 640 x 480 to play back on a TV, the more bits the better. I haven't tested the upper limits of the Zune - I'm not actually sure what the threshold is for when the Zune desktop software transcoding kicks in. Anyone done any tests to find what the upper limit is for Zune video quality? What Video Format and Bit Rate Do you Use on Your Zune?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lips & Zune To Sing In Harmony?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:36 AM


“Yano also said that Lips could interact with music devices (he name-checked the Zune and iPod as examples), which will let users sing along to their own song library. Unfortunately, no further details were announced, so we'll have to wait and see whether music-device interaction will simply use the Lips microphones to let you sing, or whether it will actually grade your performance as well.”

At E3 yesterday, Microsoft had a ton of announcements that mostly affected the 360. While those were all exciting (If you have a Zune you better have a 360!) there was one that pertained to the Zune as well. Microsoft has apparently decided to jump into the music game with a karaoke game for the 360. The interesting thing to note is that it will also work with personal music devices.

Now there would be an absolutely awesome use for the Zune Pass. If Lips were to be successful then I can see, in this video game, er game, of one-upmanship that the other studios would copy popular features. A Guitar Hero or Rock Band game taking that feature? Or how about a future Lips game that was a full band arrangement? If they do this right it could be a really cool way to use your Zune content!

Tags: Zune, Lips

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