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All posts tagged "zune"

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Zune Developer

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 11:00 AM

Cute video, but it's sort of depressing that there's so little going on in the Zune world and I'm reduced to posting videos of cute kids and babies. It's a depressing time to be a Zune fan - there are no indications there's going to be any new or refreshed hardware released this year, which will make the first time in four years that Microsoft will not be releasing some form of new hardware in the fall. And, no, Windows Phone 7 devices don't count - sure, they'll give us a Zune experience, but I'm still a fan of dedicated, non-phone hardware. At this point, I think the most we can hope for us some improvements in the desktop software for the fall...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Demo of the Kinect + Zune Integration

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 04:00 PM

Curious about how the Xbox 360 Zune software will work with the forthcoming Kinect accessory? Check out the video above - it looks pretty cool, all in all, but I was dismayed at how long it took the Zune software to start up - did they take notes from the Zune HD team on application load times? BA-DA-DA! Thanks, I'm here all week. Seriously though, I hope that's beta code, because the start up time shown in the video sucks.

Friday, June 25, 2010

SWITCHED Asked People in New York What a "Zune" Was...Uh-oh

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 12:11 PM


"We understand that Apple's brand-name recognition stretches from one hemisphere to the next, and that competitors face a nigh-impossible task of out-marketing the Cupertino giant. But, still, we expected at least a few people to get this one..."

I don't think the results of this will surprise anyone. The article mentions the "fanfare" with which Microsoft launched the Zune HD last year, and I have to wonder what the author is thinking of - because there was no fanfare. I haven't seen any form of mainstream media advertising for the Zune HD, so is it any wonder that no one knows what it is? I can't help but notice the demographic of the people they stopped - other than one young kid, most of them didn't look like the Xbox 360-owning type...and anyone with an Xbox 360 will know what "Zune" means, at least in a general sense (an entertainment service). Also, given that the Zune is a USA-only product, one has to wonder how many of those people were from the USA, or visiting from some place else...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bing Spring 2010 Update: New Features Galore

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 02:30 PM


"Moving to the updated Bing web site, we see the biggest changes. And the most important of these, I think, is a rethinking of the overall Bing user experience, with Microsoft moving to more of a dialog-driven model. (Where "dialog" here means a conversation with the user, not a PC-type dialog window.) The impetus for this was the way the Bing user interface had evolved and become somewhat cluttered over the past year, with the left column, or "rail" in Bing-speak, losing its focus and becoming, on many pages, too long to be useful. (Microsoft has found that once the navigational pane extends past the "fold," or the bottom of the initial screen height, that many users simply stop paying attention.)"

The new Bing update is out, there's lots to like - of particular interest is the entertainment/media options. When you look up an artist and flip over to the music tab, you'll have an option to hear a full version of the track - as in, the entire song, once - after that, you'll get a 30 second preview. Zune Pass subscribers will get to hear the whole song as many times as they want. I haven't been able to see/test this feature, even when I manually go to the US version of Bing. Anyone else had any luck with this?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What To Do About Zune?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 10:00 AM


"After almost four years, the standalone Zune player has something like 2 percent of the MP3 player market. Ballmer should face it: the iPod is unstoppable. But Microsoft already has a mobile-phone business--even if Windows Mobile is the Atari 2600 of mobile platforms, it still shipped on more than 15 million phones in 2008 and 2009, and the vastly improved Windows Phone 7 could help Microsoft double that number in 2011. Every Windows Phone 7 will have the full Zune HD interface built into it. Microsoft should market the heck out of this feature: the Zune HD is a better MP3 player than the iPod in many ways--wireless sync, the "now playing" queue and Quickplay feature, the Zune Pass all-you-can-eat subscription service, cool rolling displays of album and artist art, and better PC software. I'm willing to bet that phones running Windows Phone 7 will be better MP3 players than the iPhone, too."

As a longtime Zune owner, it pains me to admit that the product hasn't sold as well as it probably should have. With the single-function form factor on the way out, will a strong integration with Windows Phone 7 be enough to stave off tough competition from Apple? There's no doubt that the Zune HD interface is both beautiful and perfectly optimized for touch, and in a way it has served as a testing ground for some of the UI conventions within Windows Phone 7. With wireless syncing, the "pins" metaphor, and of course the Zune Pass, the Zune HD is in many ways a stronger media player than the iPod Touch. Putting this combination into every WP7 device will certainly shake up expectations of cell phone media players, but will people be willing to fork over another $10 or $15 for a Zune Pass on top of their monthly cell bill? Rosoff brings up the old "sure you could pay $3000 for 3000 songs, or just $15 a month" as a possible marketing tactic, but Zune has gone there before to no effect. There's little doubt that Zune on WP7 can be a winner, the question is whether they can execute on it and if this will be enough to save Zune.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Should Microsoft Do?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune Talk" @ 06:50 AM


"Let’s be honest, Microsoft has done a bad job at promoting both its Zune HD product and the Zune brand itself. One reason most people say Microsoft jumped into the mp3 market was to compete with Apple and iTunes. Fast forward and Microsoft Zune is barely a whisper. Apple currently controls the mp3 market, Microsoft is not even in 2nd place. Sandisk holds that position. I’ve come up with a few suggestions that Ballmer needs to do to make Zune better"

A blogger by the handle of THEPHOENIX720 has posted five things that he feels Microsoft needs to do to make the Zune a success. And let’s not beat around the bush here, I think the Zune really is, from a sales standpoint, a failure. The technology of the platform is sound but Microsoft dropped every ball it could with it. THEPHOENIX720 is pretty much right on the money with his suggestions. The only problem is that Microsoft should have done everything he suggested YEARS ago.

Now it’s never too late to remake yourself or a product. Apple, in the past decade, has enjoyed a resurgence that no one can claim they saw coming. Microsoft made a huge blunder with Windows Vista only to completely recover with Windows 7. Companies and product lines can be salvaged. But Microsoft has to make an effort! Apple didn’t save itself only by making some good hardware. The iPod itself is a good MP3 player but their advertising campaign was perfect. Their advertising for their computers, iPhones, and iPad have all been right on the money.

Microsoft however couldn’t convince you to buy an umbrella in a downpour. I don’t know why that is. The other points about product synergy and pushing the Zune Pass all SEEM obvious. Yet, Microsoft has never followed through. The original promises of what the Zune could be are finally starting to come to fruition on the Zune HD but never really quite made it there.

In a way, I think Microsoft should go with his fifth option, which is to kill the Zune HD. Before you get too outraged, hear me out! Windows Phone 7 has Zune capability. The Kin has Zune capability. Clearly, Zune has finally become more than just about the Zune player. With the Zune available in multiple formats, Microsoft should do what they did with Vista and give us a "new" Zune. Then you can push the heck out of it. Not saying it would work but sometimes wrapping a good product in a new package lets you promote it in new ways. Microsoft doesn’t even measure on the market share meter here so what do they really have to lose?

What does anyone else think Microsoft can do to get the Zune back on track?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Zune HD vs. Kin Two: A Comparison

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone Software" @ 04:08 PM

Adam Lien from pocketnow has put together an interesting video that will interest anyone in the Zune or Windows Phone camp; how exactly does the Kin - which is a precursor to the Zune experience on Windows Phone 7. All in all, there aren't that many big differences between the two - but it's interesting to see the way the Zune experience evolves when you have an always-connected device.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Zune Software & Logitech Keyboards: Why Doesn't This Work Right?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM

I'm generally a big fan of the Zune desktop software - performance could be better (I swear it's gotten slower with every update) - but I prefer it to Windows Media Player so much that I've installed it on every computer I have, despite the fact that I only sync my Zune with one of those computers. It's really nicely designed software; it makes Windows Media Player look like it was designed 20 years ago. I also like Logitech keyboards and mice; I have five desktop computers in my home, and all of them are running Logitech keyboards and mice. I used to prefer Microsoft mice and keyboards, but I found I had fewer wireless signal problems with Logitech products. So on every desktop computer I have, it's Zune + Logitech. But here's the problem with that math...

Image credit: sad face from How to Feed a Ninja.

Every decent keyboard has dedicated media buttons, making it easy to pause, resume playback, adjust the volume, etc. I use these keys all the time...and therein lies the problem. Read more...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Microsoft's Project Pink is now Kin

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone News" @ 10:23 AM


I'm in the midst of watching the stream of the live keynote on this event, so will report back later, but wanted to share this news as soon as possible. This isn't a Windows phone - it's a highly-focused feature phone that's targeted at a certain group of users. It integrates the full Zune client as well...more to come! The Kin Web site is also live.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Music Organization: Which Application Wins?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 12:30 PM


MaximumPC has done an interesting side by side comparison of the big three options out there for music organization on your home PC. To be honest, most people will have a hard time really making much of a selection based on the software and are far more likely to be choosing based on what their device of choice is. In the case of the iPod and Zune, we’re mostly tied to using the software designed for it.

But if you don’t like your options with your current software solution, it’s certainly not impossible to use a different program to manage your media and a different one to load your player. The three that MaximumPC looks at are iTunes (of course), Zune, and Songbird. Read more...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sync Your Media Center, Zune And Windows Home Server

Posted by Andy Dixon in "Digital Home Software" @ 02:00 PM


"Windows Home Server was a large part of CES this year. I was pleasantly embraced by all you fellow Windows Home Server users and I joyfully shared the new features sets that Power Pack 3 empowered your home server with. The beautiful thing about our booth is the ability to walk everyone step by step, on how to take advantage of these new features. For those of you who were not at CES, I'd like to take the time to share with you those steps that I shared with CES attendees. One of the key scenarios that got a lot of interest at the show was how a Zune music player can benefit from having a Windows Home Server around as well. This post goes into more detail about why and how it all works together."

When Microsoft released Power Pack 3 for Windows Home Server, there were a number of new features added that perhaps not everyone realised was included. This article from The Windows Home Server blog, explains how to make full use of one of those features if you have a Media Center PC, a Windows Home Server and a media player such as the Zune. The ability to access your music, videos and pictures on both your Media Center PC and your Zune is nice, but to be able to record your TV shows and automatically create a copy compressed especially for the Zune so you can watch them on the go is brilliant. No more having to encode the TV shows specifically for the Zune, just record your show on the Media Center as normal and one extra copy encoded correctly for the Zune or other media player of your choice will be made. If you didn't know about this, then take a read and see how easy it is.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Facebook App for the Zune HD Delayed

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 09:39 PM


"We know many of you are anxiously waiting for the Facebook for Zune HD app, and have been very patient. Thank you. However, we need to ask a small favor... just hold on a little longer. I know we said by the end of January, but we want to deliver the best app to you and it is going to take a little bit more time. Again thanks for understanding."

There's something kind of problematic about the Zune app story when it takes Microsoft months and months to release Twitter and Facebook apps for the Zune HD. They need to open up the Zune Marketplace to outside developers - Microsoft is neither fast nor agile when it comes to software development, and speed is what the Zune HD needs to start picking up if it's going to thrive. I really hope the Zune Facebook app is better on the Zune HD than it is on Windows Mobile - that's one sad app. I actually prefer using the Facebook mobile site designed for the iPod Touch rather than the Windows Mobile app because it's so much faster and functional. And when a Web interface is faster and more functional than a local app, you've really gone wrong with your app development...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Zune Finally Good Enough To Clone

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 08:30 AM


"Taiwan's MSI, known mainly for its PCs, has released its latest portable media player, the MT-V660. The device is styled after Microsoft's Zune HD and uses a Rockchip RK2806 chipset along with a 3.2-inch display with a 480x320 resolution."

While Apple's iPod line has had a quadrillion copy cats, Microsoft's Zune has remained relatively unscathed until now. With the Zune HD getting rave reviews it was only a matter of time before similar looking products started showing up. If I were Microsoft, I would feel flattered! The fact that this one comes from MSI is a bit of a surprise, but it appears that the less euphoniously named MT-V660 appears to offer playback for a wealth of formats. Whether it will support the rest of the features a Zune HD offers, and have as slick an interface remains to be seen. One thing that is certain though, is that it will be sold beyond the US border.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Zune Video Marketplace and Other New Features Coming to Xbox 360's Everywhere on November 17th

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 05:00 PM


"The topic du jour was all about TV, but this morning at NewTeeVee Live - an industry conference that explores the future of television - Xbox LIVE general manager Marc Whitten confirmed the next wave of social entertainment is coming to Xbox LIVE on November 17. Starting next week, Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm and instant on HD video from Zune will be available on Xbox 360 consoles, transforming Xbox LIVE into the largest social network connected to the TV with exclusive features custom-designed for the living room."

November 17th is the big day when Zune comes to the Xbox 360! Engadget has some great videos that they've disabled embedding on, so you'll have to go over to their site to see them. One of the interesting features is the ability to watch a movie in a shared virtual environment - meaning you can have a "movie party" and have several online friends watch the same movie at the same time, and you can emote certain things - and talk - while the movie is going on. I don't know how often I'd want to do that - probably never - but it's a neat use of technology to bridge distances between friends. The videos in the Zune video marketplace are 1080p, and support "instant on" streaming. Myself, I'm most curious to see what will happen to the selection of movies - it's always been pretty poor in Canada, and we've never had TV shows for download. If you want to get great online video in Canada, iTunes is pretty much the only game. I hope this Xbox update changes that!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How Will Zune Evolve?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 07:00 AM

"Microsoft is considering whether it should port the Zune software and services to other platforms, including Apple’s. There’s no guarantee that the Redmondians will end up doing this - or timetable as to when this could happen - but it’s one of many strategies under active consideration. That’s what I heard today from Jose Pinero, Director of Communications for Microsoft’s TV, Video and Music Business. I had a chance to chat with Pinero at Microsoft’s consumer open-house showcase in New York on October 6."

Going along with the news of a definite Microsoft commitment to putting the Zune platform on Windows phones, this article at ZDNet is even more interesting. Microsoft would be willing, going forward to support other platforms, including Apple. What exactly does that mean? Just Zune software on the Mac? Apparently not! Microsoft even is thinking in terms of direct iPod support. Now I don't know if that's realistic or not but its something they have on the table.

The bigger picture you get from this article is Microsoft's view of what the Zune platform is to their business. Zune has always been somewhat strange for Microsoft. They tend to build ecosystems for others to play in. Even the XBox follows that mold since a game system, by default, needs broad support from game publishers to survive and thrive. The Zune though has been Microsoft's closed platform. Microsoft controls the entire experience from end to end.

But that's not how they view the Zune platform internally, according to this article. Zune is viewed as their media platform for their entire product line. They're not talking about the players either. They're talking about the whole Zune experience. Could this mean Microsoft eventually licensing out the mobile platform? After Plays For Sure I'm not sure how many would jump on that.

It will be interesting to see where it goes. With the Zune set to make an appearance eventually on Windows phones, that will certainly give an instantly broader market and really that would be the first real challenge to iPod/iPhone dominance because that platform is widespread enough to compete already. Many people are happy to carry one device around and I could see that more than anything causing some erosion in the DMP market.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Microsoft Axes Musiwave

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Digital Home Software" @ 05:00 AM


"Nearly two years after spending $46m to acquire the Musiwave mobile tunes service, Microsoft has informed wireless carriers they can no longer use the service once their contracts expire, according to a source familiar with the matter. This source, who requested anonymity because he feared reprisals from his employer, says Microsoft notified operators by letter on Wednesday, September 9. The Paris-based Musiwave underpins the music, video, and ringtone services operated by wireless carriers across the globe, driving more than 50 million downloads a year for the likes of T-Mobile, Vodafone, and Orange. It serves carriers in the UK, Europe, Africa, New Zealand, and Australia - though not the US."

I guess I should not be surprised, but I didn't realize that Microsoft controlled a big chunk of the download service for the major carriers. Like the article suggests, I'm betting their rebranding the service and possibly linking it in with the Zune marketplace in some way, but it still appears that the carriers are going to be left out in the cold. Any ideas what is going on here?

Friday, September 18, 2009

AnythingButIpod Lists Zune HD Tips & Tricks

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 03:30 PM

"We have slightly modified the wireless sync behavior for Zune HD. Instead of remaining connected once you establish the wireless connection, you will now automatically exit the connection once the player determines there is no content to sync. In the auto sync wireless scenario, the player will continue to attempt to reconnect every 10 minutes if wireless sync has been set-up, the player has AC power, no media is playing, and there is no user activity on the player."

If you are trying to unlock every bit of potential that your new Zune HD has, then you might want to head over to AnythingButIpod and check out their forum post detailing every little thing that you may not have known how to do but want to. Or how to do things that you didn't even think about. ABI has TONS of tips up in its forum so if you're a proud new owner of a Zune HD you should definitely follow the link and see what cool things are hidden!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Few Bits of Random Info for non-Zune HD Owners

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 10:30 AM

There's not much to this post, but a few bits of info that I wanted to share:

  • When it comes to apps, it's going to be Zune HD only. Moving forward all apps and games will be only for the Zune HD, not any previous models.
  • Older devices will be able to play back rental movies from the Zune Marketplace, but not download-to-own movies. I'm not sure if this goes back all the way to the Zune 30 devices - I'll have to test that.
  • Obviously, without the Tegra chip, older devices won't be able to play back HD content.
  • The Quickplay UI will not be present on older devices

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why Isn't The Zune Launched Internationally Yet?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 05:00 PM

First, some background on this problem. Here's what I said in my analysis of the iPod announcements:

"iTunes is in 23 countries. The Zune Marketplace is in one. Microsoft's US-centric approach with the Zune is maddening...I thought there was some light at the end of the tunnel when they launched the Zune in Canada last year, but we never got the Zune Marketplace here, and now the devices being sold here are being killed off. "Disaster" is a good word for how well the Zune launch went in Canada. Between the Zune HD being US-only at launch, and all of the IP-based geographic blocking madness that the Zune software and Web site does, it's like the Zune team is doing everything they can to alienate everyone in the world outside the US."

In the resulting discussion from the post, the issue of this US-centric approach to the Zune was brought up several times, and I floated this theory:

"Apple was the first company to negotiate big, international music distribution deals, and way back then most of the music labels probably though Apple would fail, or at best only be mildly successful. So they said "Sure, 99 cents sounds fine as long as the bit rate sucks." Fast-forward, and iTunes is massively successful. We've watched as the record labels pressured Apple for variable pricing year after year, trying to re-assert control over their music. They finally got it. The labels don't like all the power that Apple has, so here's my theory: they're making it very hard, if not impossible, for the Zune guys to get the same sort of deal that Apple has. They're trying to exert control over the Zune deal in a way they wish they could have done with the Apple deal years ago.

Witness the $1 that Universal demanded Microsoft pay them for every Zune sold. We're talking POWER STRUGGLE here people. Maybe that's one reason why Microsoft can't accomplish now what Apple did years ago - the record labels are more aware of what they want to control.

Second reason? Maybe Microsoft feels that the Zune Pass is SO important that they can't/won't launch Zune Marketplace without it. It's quite integral to the Zune experience - many new Zune features rely on the customer having a Zune Pass - so maybe Microsoft isn't launching in new markets unless that market includes the Zune Pass. I think this is a bit silly - not everyone wants a Zune Pass - but maybe it's another reason? These are just my theories." Read more...

DVICE: Zune HD First Look

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 03:16 PM

“A 32GB Microsoft Zune HD media player arrived at our doorstep today, and we had just enough time to take it out of its packaging and snap some first shots. Unfortunately, Microsoft didn't provide the Zune 4.0 software necessary to sync it up and actually use the unit, but we still were in awe of its spectacular 3.3-inch 16:9 OLED touchscreen. It's responsive, bright, sharp, and contrasty. Beautiful.”

DVICE has a quick first look at the Zune HD. They seem to like it even they weren’t really able to use it since they don’t have the software for it yet. Never-the-less, they are still impressed by the styling of the Zune HD and its size and performance! Microsoft really seems to have a hit on its hands here since all of the commentary on the HD really has been positive.

There’s nothing else new here since DVICE couldn’t actually use the Zune HD yet but if you want to check out a nice gallery of some Zune HD shots, check out their first look and admire what you can soon buy (or just pre-order now). Release day is almost here!

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