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All posts tagged "microsoft"

Friday, October 20, 2006

Zune Battery Life Figures Revealed

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 07:30 PM


Microsoft has just revealed battery life figures for the Zune. First, the good news: wireless doesn't suck much juice, and the hours you can get out of a single charge are very similar to the 30GB iPod. With music playback, the Zune will give you 13 hours with wireless on and 14 hours with wireless off (the 30GB iPod offers up to 14 hours). With video playback and picture slideshows, you'll get up to 4 hours (the 30GB iPod offers up to 4 hours and 3.5 hours respectively). So, what's the bad news? Truth be told, I would have preferred something more. It's great that the Zune doesn't lose out to the iPod, but a little disappointing that it doesn't do any better. Microsoft could have easily packed a better battery into the device to get 50% more hours, without adding any extra bulk. Well, I guess we'll wait and see what the second generation delivers.

Slyck Talks Zune and Creative Commons

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 07:49 AM


"Take a pre-existing license adopted hundreds of thousands of times. Mix creators and activists with DRM (Digital Rights Management.) Throw in a little Microsoft Zune technology and pour it all into a mixing bowl. Stir well and serve to several hundred thousand captive audience members in cups of controversy. It certainly appears that a firestorm has emerged out of Zune's "viral DRM" and the DRM clause in the Creative Commons license. Is this a blatant attack on Creative Commons creators or is all of this nothing more then a cloud of smoke?"

Drew Wilson at Slyck has posted an interesting article that discusses the possibility of Zune violating Creative Commons licenses. While many valid points are raised, most seem unlikely to put Microsoft and users of the Zune product in a spot of trouble. There's a fine line between offering users the freedom to share and protecting one's assets, and Microsoft has hit that line by implementing its 3 days / 3 plays feature. Microsoft can't detect any copyrights attached to media being shared, so a universal DRM wrapper is put in place. Copyrighted content stays protected, while everything else suffers, simply because it's better to stay safe than to feel sorry later.

Zune Drops an F-Bomb?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 03:58 AM


"Microsoft’s forthcoming digital music player, dubbed Zune, may make some Hebrew speakers gasp. The name for the device -- which will take on the Apple iPod when released later this year -- sounds like a vulgarity, specifically the "f" word, in Hebrew... Hebrew linguists are divided over Zune. Tsila Ratner, the head of Hebrew courses in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London, says Zune is an unsuitable name for a product. However, Haggit Inbar-Littas, a 30-year veteran Hebrew teacher with the London Jewish Cultural Center, says while the name is "ridiculous" and close to the bad word, it’s unlikely to be mistaken."

I guess it's never easy coming up with a product name. As hard as a company may try to catch any unwanted interpretations, something always slips through the cracks.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jobs on Zune's Sharing: Too Slow

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 06:52 AM


"I've seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you've gone through all that, the girl's got up and left! You're much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you're connected with about two feet of headphone cable."

That's a quote from Newsweek's interview with Apple's head honcho, Steve Jobs. While the Zune's wireless sharing feature is a little crippled in its current form, I do think it has potential, yet Apple appears to not even embrace the concept. Could this say something about future iPods? Will they never incorporate any sort of sharing capabilities?

Friday, October 13, 2006

BostonPocketPC.com's Q&A with Bill Wittress

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:18 AM


"Zune, on the other hand, is highly tuned to a specific hardware set and it is designed to execute a specific set of features. As for the UI, it shares some visual similarities with PMC. However, the menu system is more refined (some might say Spartan) than PMC. We've been able to take some of the learnings from other UIs we've developed and incorporated those elements into the Zune player to continue to hone the experience. For example, we've paid attention to things such as focus and made changes to make it very intuitive and dare I say fun to use. I can go on and on about the similarities and differences between PMC and Zune. In the end, both are good device-side operating systems. I have a personal fondness for both and I think both are well suited for their purposes."

BostonPocketPC.com got together with Bill Wittress and fielded ten questions primarily covering DRM issues, the Portable Media Center (PMC) platform, filling stations, and integration with core Microsoft services. Give it a read, if you want to learn more about Zune.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ballmer: The Zune Isn't Losing Money

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:51 AM


"...our ability to embrace and benefit from or compete with new business models - and I would say ad-funded and open source, more than this hardware thing - is more the way to categorize the key competitive dynamic for us. [Does Zune fit into the hardware piece of this?] Sure it does. Because the value of Zune, if we're successful, is all in the software. It's in community [the ability to share music and pictures with other Zune users]. I want to squirt you a picture of my kids. You want to squirt me back a video of your vacation. That's a software experience. The truth is, though, if it makes money, it will be built into the gross margin on the hardware. We'll figure out how to make money on the community perhaps later though advertising or other means."

Steve Ballmer took time out recently to talk to BusinessWeek about the Zune, Xbox, and Windows Vista - where they're at now, and where they're heading. One of the major points to come out of the interview was the claim that the Zune, unlike the Xbox 360, would not be losing money through the sale of hardware alone. That's good news for Microsoft's accountants, but comes across as an awful lot less risk-taking by the company, though that's not necessarily a bad thing either. There's a time and place for gambling, and you certainly have to pick the right moment before taking the plunge and relying on the sale of accessories and media to cover any monetary losses in the sale of hardware - especially at this current stage, when the Zune brand is a mere blip on the radar, and demand is well short of that of the iPod.

Monday, October 9, 2006

Zunelicious Interviews Bill Wittress

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:31 AM


"I love working on Zune. It is incredibly entrepreneurial. You literally have 10 different things going on at any given time. On any given day you may meet with senior management, have an interview with an analyst, crunch numbers for finance and meet with a partner for dinner. The next day it will be completely different."

Zunelicious recently scored an interview with Zune's lord of accessories, Bill Wittress. He talks about some interesting things that we can expect next month - the magnitude of the launch, the quantity of accessories available, and integration with the Xbox 360. The latter is something I'm deeply interested in. Sure, MediaTags and device playback support are great, but there is so much potential still waiting to be unearthed. Here's hoping Microsoft makes up for the shortcomings with a firmware update.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Penny Arcade Talks Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 07:55 PM


"Initially we regarded the device with suspicion, then anticipation, and then white-hot desire based on what a machine with those specifications could accomplish - the wireless fi, the wider screen, a sharp UI, and the indubitable Xbox 360 integration. I've got an unobtrusive Samsung player, yeah, but it's just a little solid state munchkin with 256 embarrassing megs - it's not exactly hitting giant crabs for massive damage. You can plug some headphones into it and it will play music. It's never going to play anything but music, or be a Live Anywhere client, or whatever. The screen on that Samsung is just large enough to see myself scowling in it. I mean, I do "get it." They're creating a new platform. And the 1.0 version of this platform isn't of interest to the discerning technophile, though we desperately wanted it to be. And I have every faith that some upgrade with an innocuous filename will, in the future, reshape the very soul of the device. But I don't need to have the device in hand while they prepare this apotheosis. Nor do I let food scraps and animal carcasses pile up in the living room because they might one day become petroleum."

Ah, the Penny Arcade guys have done it again. They've channeled their creative juices into a killer comic that talks about the nerfed Wi-Fi. And if you're interested in a more verbose opinion, check out their blog post too. Enjoy. ;-)

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Sharing Songs and Pictures with the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:52 PM


Figure 1: Discovering neighbouring Zunes (and what the user is listening to). Privacy alert! ;-)

And the videos just keep flowing. Duncan Mackenzie from on10.net, and his buddy, Brian Johnson, got their hands on two pre-production Zunes and decided to put Microsoft's 3 plays / 3 days sharing to the test. Everything seems quite fluid, though don't expect it to work all that great outside of the US, where come November 14, the Zune will be almost non-existent. Duncan's video is five-and-a-half minutes long. If you don't have time to watch it, check out some of our screen grabs after the break.


Zune Unboxed

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:03 PM


If you can't wait until November 14 and simply want to take the Zune out of its box now - even if you aren't there to play with it - then head over to CBS News, where you'll learn some colourful (excuse the pun) and questionable "facts" such as "brown is the new black is the new white". Most of Chris Stephenson's walkthrough focuses on the Zune's customisable UI, with attention on music and video playback, and setting pictures as wallpaper.

Tags: zune, microsoft, ui, box, unbox

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Zune vs. iPod - In Pictures!

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 11:16 PM


"I got face time with a Zune this weekend and decided to look at how the form factor compares to the 80GB iPod I picked up a few days ago. The Zune weighs considerably less than the iPod, although I didn't have a scale on hand to get exact comparison. It felt like the Zune was more comparable to my Cingular 2125 phone, while the iPod weighs quite a bit more."

Side-by-side with the iPod, the Zune does look larger in height and thickness. However, according to Jake Ludington, the Zune feels lighter, which is a real bonus. Jake's final pictures show the black Zune and the blue trim in all its glory (I'm really digging this colour scheme), with large album art and a neat UI (something I'm also digging). Check it out!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Accessories In the Box... And Out of the Box

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Accessories" @ 09:25 PM


Earlier in the week, we learned that the Zune would ship with three accessories in the box: a soft suede pouch (featured below; thanks to Zune Insider for the picture), headphones, and a USB sync-and-charge cable. Unfortunately, much like the current generation iPods, a wall charger is not included (featured above), so you will have to rely on the USB cable for juice. Of course, your options aren't limited. Amazon is proudly displaying the first batch of official Zune accessories with pictures and price tags for all to see. The costs do seem a little unbalanced - some fetching more than its true value. Hopefully, future third-party options won't be as damaging to the wallet.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Pre-Loaded Content: What's Coming?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Media" @ 09:14 AM


Included in today's press release are details on the Zune's swag of pre-loaded content. We have nine audio tracks, twelve music videos, three short films, and a variety of images. Obviously, tastes differ among us, but what do you think of the collection? Also, do you think its inclusion will help drive Zune sales?

Audio Tracks
• Band of Horses, “Wicked Gil” (Sub Pop Records)
• Bitter:Sweet, “The Mating Game” (Quango Music Group)
• CSS, “Alala (Microsoft edit)” (Sub Pop Records)
• Darkel, “At The End of The Sky (edit)” (Astralwerks)
• Every Move a Picture, “Signs of Life” (V2)
• Small Sins, “Stay” (Astralwerks)
• The Adored, “Tell Me Tell Me” (V2)
• The Rakes, “Open Book” (V2)
• The Thermals, “A Pillar of Salt” (Sub Pop Records)

Music Video
• 30 Seconds to Mars, “The Kill” (Virgin Records)
• BT, “1.618” (DTS Entertainment)
• Chad VanGaalen, “Red Hot Drops” (Sub Pop Records)
• Coldcut featuring Roots Manuva, “True Skool” (Ninja Tune)
• CSS, “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” (Sub Pop Records)
• Fruit Bats, “Live: The Wind That Blew My Heart Away” (Sub Pop Records)
• Grandaddy, “Elevate Myself” (V2)
• Hot Chip, “Over and Over” (Astralwerks Records)
• Kraak & Smaak featuring Dez., “Keep Me Home” (Quango Music Group)
• Kinski, “Live: The Snowy Parts of Scandinavia” (Sub Pop Records)
• Paul Oakenfold, “Faster Kill Pussycat (Featuring Brittany Murphy)” (Maverick Records)
• Serena-Maneesh, “Drain Cosmetics” (Playlouderecordings)

Film Shorts
• 5 Boro: “A New York Skateboarding Minute” (Skateboarding)
• Radical Films: “Kranked — Progression” (Mountain Biking)
• TGRTV The North Face (Skiing/Snowboarding)

• A variety of images to personalize a Zune device, including 12 classic rock posters from “Art of Modern Rock”

Z Day: November 14, $249.99

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:54 AM


"Microsoft Corp. is putting the social into digital music, starting this holiday. Today the company announced that the Zune™ digital media player and online service will be available to consumers in the U.S. on Nov. 14, 2006, just in time for the holidays. The Zune device will retail for $249.99 U.S. (ERP) and will create new ways for entertainment fans to connect and share media experiences device-to-device through the use of wireless technology and new software scenarios."

Okay, folks. It's no longer a guessing game. The Zune will launch in the United States on November 14 for $249.99 (trivially discarding previous discussion about Microsoft not being undercut by Apple, since the Zune is priced at 99 cents more than the 30GB iPod). Accessories will range from $19.99 to $99.99, and can be bought individually or as packs (additional details after the break).


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Microsoft: "We Won't Be Undercut By Apple"

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 05:30 AM

Well, those of you hoping for Zune to be cheaper than the 30GB iPod have a reason to stay positive. Matt Jubelirer, a product manager for Zune, recently stated the magic words: "we won't be undercut by Apple". And David Caulton, who runs the Zunester blog seems to jibe with it all. While not exactly a word-for-word "it's $249 or less", this is one of the strongest hints yet that the iPod won't be beating the Zune on price this Christmas. Oh, and all that buzz surrounding Wal-Mart and its leak? Like I said in that post, take it with a grain. ;-)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Your Favourite Zune Colour?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 06:16 PM

Simple post. Which of the three Zune colours do you prefer? Note the existence of the colour trim around the edge of the device (green with brown, blue with black, and black with white). Personally, I still haven't decided between black and white. As for the brown, well, that's a little out of my league. ;-)

Brown Zune with green colour trim [click here for a high-resolution version].

Black Zune with blue colour trim [click here for a high-resolution version].

White Zune with black colour trim [click here for a high-resolution version].

Microsoft Answers Your Zune Questions

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 05:51 AM

Cesar at the Zune Insider blog and David at the Zunester blog took time out to answer some of the more popular Zune-related questions out there. Here's a summary:

Podcast Support
In a nutshell, podcasts are supported. By having the WMA or MP3 file in your Zune library, you can simply transfer it and play it on the Zune. Extended support (for example, subscriptions, automatic downloading, etc.), as currently visible in iTunes and the iTunes Store, is still a while away, though should be present in future Zune releases.

Additional Codecs
David had this to say: "First, a lot of folks wanted to know why Zune isn't supporting some additional codecs - notably Ogg and FLAC. This is a good question, and we did spent a lot of time in the early days going through lists of codecs. In the end, we opted to focus on the most mainstream codecs first (and really getting them right - each codec is its own implementation challenge). We’re certainly actively considering codecs in the future, but for now we think the list we’ve got answers the most users’ needs."

Tagging and Indexing
David went on to mention that the Zune indexes all supported media (music, pictures, videos), and its operation is fast. If you have missing tag data, a background web service automatically fills in any holes (I'm just hoping this is miles ahead of what Windows Media Player currently offers).

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wal-Mart Says $284

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:10 PM

"Thanks to some vigilant Wal-Mart watching by a friendly tipster, we've got a good idea as to the Zune pricetag, though we're still no closer to a specific launch date. By the time we got to the Zune's product page, the pricing info had been removed, but it can still be spotted in the MP3 player category listing at a lean $284 flat."

Earlier today, Engadget reported that Wal-Mart leaked the not-too-shabby price of $284. Microsoft still hasn't released any official pricing details, so the advice here is that until Microsoft spills the beans, take whatever figure you see with a grain of salt. ;-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Stereogum and MOKB Examine the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 07:50 PM

"That's where Microsoft's challenge lies. Zune provides a few improvements over iPod but, as much as Microsoft acknowledges the inevitability of a device-based dialogue, its aspirations lay far beyond the unit itself; with Zune, the company wants to redefine the market for purchased music, going from the "closed" system of Apple to an open community -- an "army of promoters" –- changing the way music is discovered (via wireless-device sharing of songs and playlists) and purchased (via Zune's subscription service)."

A few bloggers (Stereogum and MOKB, among others) managed to score some personal time with the Zune last week. They cover quite a few aspects of the device and service - appearance, weight, dimensions, the colours (and the trim), the joys of integrated Wi-Fi, the ability to personalise the UI, and the all-you-can-eat Zune Pass. Check out what they have to say! All in all, the Zune has potential. With aggressive marketing and solid product maturation from now until the holiday season and beyond, Microsoft just might be able to steal some of the limelight from Apple.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Diving Deep on the Zune: Q&A with Microsoft

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:19 AM

Continuing on from yesterday's "Diving Deep on the Zune" article, we have a selection of Q&As from the conference call with Microsoft. People in attendance were Microsoft's Cesar Menendes, General Manager of Marketing Chris Stephensen, Harvey from Zunerama, and Jason Dunn from our very own Zune Thoughts. The text below was transcribed from the latter 15 minutes of the conference call. Read on for more!

Harvey: There is some speculation that with the DJ-ing feature transmitting to nearby Zunes - will each owner be able to assign a nickname to their Zune, so that it's identifiable who you're DJ-ing to?

Chris: Absolutely, yeah. You'll have a name, every Zune will have a name, every person in the community will have a name. You know, we call them gamertags in the Xbox Live community. So you'll have your own Zunetag in this community as well. When you buy a device and join the community, you'll sign up and you'll give your device a name and you'll give yourself a name, so you'll know exactly who you're sharing to in your local area. You can have your friends list of all the people that you have selected, like you do in instant messaging, for example. You've got all your buddies. You can actually just select the guys that you want to share with, and join into that community. We haven't gone specific about an announcement on that DJ-ing feature, but you're probably referring to the Toshiba article on that, and the nice thing about having a wireless device here is that there's many scenarios that we can enable in the future. We call it future-proofing, so we got a roll-out of really interesting scenarios for 2007 that will bring the whole wireless idea to the next level. So, very much part of the rollout plan is being able to establish and create new features as we go along. That's definitely something to look out for in 2007.

Harvey: Chris, one thing that I haven't seen out there in the material releases today are the dimensions and weight of the player.

Chris: The player is exactly the same weight as an iPod Video. In fact, we're 5.6 ounces. They're 5.5, if you want to be really technical. It's pretty much the same size as an iPod Video. We are 4.4" x 2.4". They're 4.1" x 2.4". It's a little less than a quarter of an inch taller. It's basically a little taller, the same weight, and the same width.

Jason: And the thickness?

Chris: They are 0.47", and we are 0.58". So, we're a little thicker.

Harvey: Okay, and that's comparing it with an 80GB iPod?

Chris: That's comparing it with an 80GB, and the 30GB is exactly the same. In fact, the 80GB and the 30GB for the iPod are the same. The 30GB is 4.8 ounces. The difference is actually screen size. The screen size [of the Zune] is quite a bit bigger - it's 3". It's got the wireless built-in as well, so that little bit of additional thickness is really down to the additional features that are inside, and there is also a radio receiver in there.

Jason: Can we talk about the battery life for a little bit? Are you committing to any numbers in terms of Wi-Fi on or off, or video playback... that kind of stuff?

Chris: There is so much sort of development work, and as you guys know, in the technology process, you're working on maximizing the firmware on that stuff right up to release. What I can say right now is we're not releasing those specific details. As soon as we do, we'll let you guys know. I will give you a couple of quick hints at it, though. I actually have the numbers right in front of me. We are quicker to full charge. Over a period of two hours, there's significantly more charge than an iPod. In terms of the overall battery life, in terms of music, pictures, video - it's very comparable. We haven't got specific numbers. It's very comparable to all iPod Video scenarios. Sometime, probably in the middle of October, we'll get closer on some of those specs.

Jason: Now is that the new iPod that has the enhanced battery life, or are you guys comparing yourself to the older units?

Chris: This is all the brand new stuff that has been recently released. Yes.

Jason: Perfect.

Harvey: There's a lot of speculation out there about the effects of Wi-Fi on the battery. Can you tell us how you're testing it?

Chris: To get a detailed response on that, I'm not the right guy to talk to. That would be more like a Greg Gibson question. He's our head of engineering. The basic principle is that the way the software and the firmware is being created is to maximize the... basically, you're only utilizing Wi-Fi when you're utilizing Wi-Fi. That's the very simple way of looking at it. When you're sending, it's only Wi-Fi. It's not like Wi-Fi is on permanently - sort of burning down the battery. When we launch, that's what you're going to have. You're going to have a system that's Wi-Fi when you want it to be Wi-Fi, and otherwise it's not. Effectively, the headline on that is Wi-Fi is not a significant limiter of battery life, based on the way we've written the engineering specifications.

Harvey: Related to the battery, I think the biggest complaint we get about the iPod is that the battery is not replaceable. When it dies, you have to replace the iPod. Is the Zune - is that a non-replaceable battery?

Chris: It is, yeah. It is actually a similar product in that respect.

Harvey: How about release dates? Can you confirm any of those?

Chris: Um, release... Sorry, did you say Apple release dates?

Harvey: Sorry, release dates for the first Zune player and the service?

Chris: We haven't released the specific date right now. It is Holiday '06. So we'll be coming to market on Holiday '06. We're working around a few different dates. There's a huge amount of stuff going on around the holiday period, so I don't think it'll be a surprise to anyone to say it's November. But we haven't announced that, and we're waiting to get the right day, and just see everything else that's going on in the market at the moment.

Jason: Getting back to the battery for just a second here, I think in the FCC documents, they specified that it was 700mA. Can you confirm that that's going to be the final shipping battery size?

Chris: I could not, quite frankly. There's a certain amount of things that you guys might need to know about that we need to follow up on. A lot of the detailed tech specs - I'm not really the right person to speak to.

Harvey: Can you tell us about the pricing? $299 has been a well publicized rumor. Might that change with the Apple announcement this week?

Chris: Well, you know. We've always said that we'll be a parity with the market. We'll be at the right place for the market. We haven't announced price right now, and you're right, $299 has been banded around. I've seen $199, $249, $299, and even $329. We haven't announced the price right now. Watch this space is the way to answer that.

Harvey: It's interesting that Apple split the differences with their two updated iPods...

Chris: Yeah, it's interesting that they decided to reduce the price of the 30GB. It's come down $50. That's obviously a huge financial hitch. I'm not sure what they think we're doing. It's certainly an interesting thing to do - to reduce the price of a good-selling product like that - that was selling well at $299. We'll take it as it is. It's an interesting move on their part, and it's an interesting opportunity in the market place.

Harvey: Just about the Marketplace, and I apologize if this is in the specs. Is there pricing release for the subscription services?

Chris: No, we actually haven't released pricing on any of the products or Marketplace products at the moment.

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