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All posts tagged "zune"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Zune on CNN, Upstaged at the End

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:00 AM


CNN has published a video interview with NYT's Andrew Ross Sorkin who introduces the Zune to the news team. Unfortunately, the Zune got served at the end by the new iPod shuffle. I'm not denying that the iPod shuffle is an impressive bit of booty, but a lot of mainstream media seem so blinded by Apple's offerings that they tend not to show much interest in other competitors' products. Perhaps we'll see a turnaround in a couple of years time.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Microsoft Launches Zune, Apple Answers Back

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Off-Topic" @ 11:30 PM


"The Zune, Microsoft’s next combined hardware/software service has launched and is now available in an impressive 30,000 retail outlets, arguably the most aggressive attempt to take market share from Apple to date. Apple has responded by cutting deals with a number of airline carries to exclusively support iPods for in-flight entertainment. What makes this particularly interesting is that in both cases the two companies appear to be behaving more like the other firm than themselves."

Apple's latest press release hit my inbox yesterday faster than an SR-71 breaking the sound barrier. It was one that was properly timed in an attempt to steal the limelight from the Zune on its launch day. iPod integration in six major airlines? That's pretty impressive, though Rob Enderle at Digital Trends raises a good point about it ruffling a few anti-trust feathers. Can Apple, a dominant company in the media industry, lock out competing firms in critical markets such as this? Only time will tell. It all seems like a sweet deal now, but Apple had better prepare for the repercussions if they ever arise.

Shots of the Seattle Launch

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Events" @ 10:30 PM


"A Zune is born this day. This morning, Bill Gates bounced on stage, in Zune jacket and all, and introduced Zune to a crowd of enthusiastic Seattleites. Bill was preceded on stage by Secret Machines, who played a short set. We had breakfast with the Zune team, along with some lucky contest winners, and with Ben, Brandon, and Josh from Secret Machines."

It looked pretty cold in Seattle yesterday, but that wasn't going to stop the people gathering to see what Bill Gates and the Zune team had up their sleeves. Harvey from Zunerama snapped a few shots of the action. Head over there for a look.

ClicZune: iPod vs. Zune

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


"When it comes the time to choose between the two competing DAPs (Digital Audio Player), many questions can be raised. There is probably no bad decision, but making the right one for you all depends on what “you” want from an mp3 player and why you are buying one. We made a short list of tips to help you choose between the iPod vs. Zune. You could eventually apply those to other DAPs currently on the market. This is certainly not an exhaustive list but it can certainly help you. Have fun!"

ClicZune has published a helpful iPod vs. Zune purchasing guide for DAP newbies. If you're quite the opposite and know each device inside out, from top to bottom, then this guide probably isn't for you. Some of the questions, such as #5, for example, have been given the "basic solution" treatment. Bought a whole lot of iTunes Store tracks? No problem - it's not the end of the world. You can easily combat it by burning the tracks and ripping them into WMA or MP3, or by using a direct conversion tool. And the same holds for PlaysForSure tunes.

Zune.net Updated

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 03:00 AM


Microsoft has updated the Zune.net site to coincide with the official launch of Zune. You can download the Zune software or hit the Support page for your fix of how-to and troubleshooting guides, FAQs, manuals, and warranty information.

On an unrelated note, be sure to connect to the net when installing the Zune software. There's a Zune software update and Zune firmware update available for download during the installation process.

Zune: Sorry, No Love for Vista

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 02:00 AM


Two days ago, we ran a story discussing the possibility of the Zune not supporting Windows Vista, and today, our worst fears were confirmed. Within the next fortnight, MSDN subscribers and business users will be able to pick up a final version of Windows Vista, and to not have the Zune work with it is a huge slap in the face. I know a lot of people who are genuinely interested in the Zune and rolling out Windows Vista as soon as possible. If Microsoft doesn't release some sort of Vista compatibility patch by November 30, there are going to be a lot of disgruntled folks around the place.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Video Sharing Is a Go

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:00 PM


"Microsoft Corp. plans to add a video-sharing feature to its Zune player and will eventually sell a model that combines the device with a phone, Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said. The video function would probably be used to transfer content created by Zune customers, Ballmer said in an interview today from Redmond, Washington. He declined to comment on when Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, would add video sharing or announce a phone model."

We were only just talking about future-proofing a couple of hours ago, and look, Microsoft has already outlined one of its plans. The Zune phone isn't news, though the bit about video sharing is. Ballmer's description makes it sound almost like an offline YouTube, which I have to admit, is pretty interesting, though what Microsoft really needs to focus on first is getting more Zune devices out into the market (and I'm talking on a global scale), so that the mass sharing that it has in mind can turn from concept into reality.

Microsoft Makes It Official: Welcome to the Social

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Events" @ 07:10 PM

"Celebrating the U.S. launch of the new Zune™ digital media player and music service, Microsoft Corp. has worked with a number of cutting-edge artists to stage free concerts in public parks and plazas in urban centers across the country. Today at Westlake Park in downtown Seattle at the first of these Zune concerts, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates took the stage to share his excitement for this next step Microsoft is taking in music and entertainment. Gates outlined the Zune vision to create new ways for people to connect, discover and share music and entertainment experiences. He was joined onstage by John Richards, morning show host of popular community radio station KEXP, to showcase the new Zune-to-Zune wireless sharing feature. Richards wirelessly sent the inaugural song to Gates, who then surprised the crowd by giving away his Zune device to a member of the audience. Building on the “Hello from Seattle” greeting printed on the back of every Zune device, Richards created a playlist to celebrate Seattle music in honor of the Zune launch. The complete KEXP “Hello from Seattle” playlist will be available on Zune Marketplace for consumers to download."

The official Zune launch is just a couple of hours away, and well, you know how it goes. Things don't feel official without some official PRs from the company itself. If you're interested in checking them out, hit PressPass for one about the launch and one about the "social". The second PR is very focused on the concept of "future-proofing". Microsoft wants you to know that despite some current limitations, the Zune will be upgradeable. We've seen this happen over the past year with the Xbox 360, and with the same team working on the Zune, I do believe that it'll be given the same sort of treatment.

So, folks, the Zune will be available from 30,000 US retailers. Tell us if you'll be picking up one (or two or three) tomorrow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Zune and Windows Vista Compatibility

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 08:00 PM

Click the image above for a larger version (JPG, 80KB).

Last week, Microsoft announced that Windows Vista RTM'ed with business availability expected on November 30, and consumer availability on January 30. Naturally, we were curious to see whether the Zune (its release date being November 14) would be compatible with Microsoft's latest operating system. Read on to find out!

Best Buy Sells Zune Early

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 02:40 AM


Oops, looks like a Best Buy salesman in Union City, CA screwed up today by letting a Zune out of the bag a little too early. The only problem is, the customer can't install the software. That's karma for you.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Microsoft Green Lights Re-Downloading

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 11:00 AM


File this one under the "w00t" category. According to a report at Gizmodo, Microsoft will allow you to re-download tracks purchased from the Zune Marketplace up to five times (plus a few more if you contact tech support). This is unlike Apple's "purchase once - download once" policy (though we've heard that if you beg really hard, they do let you download purchased tracks a second time). Whichever way you look at it, Microsoft's policy is sure to please the 99% of us who have a habit of reminding ourselves to backup, but never do. Yes, you know who you are. :-)

Pogue and Mossberg Review the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:00 AM

"Next week, Microsoft Corp. will launch the most serious challenge ever mounted to Apple Computer's iPod and iTunes juggernaut in digital music. The software giant is introducing a portable player called the Zune, an online music store called Zune Marketplace and a new music software program called Zune that links the two. It plans to put plenty of marketing muscle behind Zune, and promises to expand and refine this new product line in coming years."

Blind iPod comparisons aside, NYT's Pogue and WSJ's Mossberg have put together two (mostly) unbiased reviews of the Zune. Both have their fair share of criticisms (and I'm going to do my best here to highlight the least discussed ones, since re-hashing isn't fun). ;-) Mossberg twice claims that album art on the Zune looks shabby (the first without reason; the second blaming it on PPI), though I'm willing to question the quality of his album art. All of my tracks have album art in at least 320 x 320, and they're a source of ocular pleasure on a standard sub-3" QVGA display. Mossberg goes on to argue that the Microsoft Points pricing mechanism is an annoyance. I don't really disagree with him here, at least as far as the Zune Marketplace is concerned. It's been largely successful on the Xbox Live Marketplace, simply because game content is typically worth a few hundred Points, not 79 Points (the cost of a single track on the Zune Marketplace). 79 Points translates to around 99 US cents, yet it's not as simple as taking out your credit card and purchasing 79 Points. They come in blocks of at least $5, so if you only want to purchase one track, you still have to spend an extra $4.01 on Points and leave it aside for a rainy day. I do hope Microsoft finds a way around this. I don't mind their implementation of Points, but they should at least allow single Point purchasing to keep the crowd happy.

Those aren't all of the negative points that Pogue and Mossberg raise, though I hate to spoil a good (at times, good for a laugh) read, so I'll leave it to you to discover the rest. However, at the risk of having their reviews sound like pages of Zune bashing, it is worth pointing out that there are plenty of positive things said about the Zune: the large screen, the UI, the FM tuner, and even guest sync support. Both think it'll take a while before it poses a significant threat to Apple's dominance, and this is something I largely agree with. As we've seen with the Xbox/Xbox 360, it usually takes Microsoft at least one generation of hardware revisions, firmware updates, and introduction of new services before the magic starts happening. By the time the second-generation Zune arrives, I'm convinced that a higher percentage of the population will be taking the Zune a lot more seriously.

What Microsoft Thinks of the Universal Deal

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 04:50 AM


"Today we're announcing that we'll pay UMG a per device royalty for every Zune player sold – a first in the industry. Why? We're about supporting artists, and ensure they continue to prosper with the emergence of the digital music model. The distribution of digital music isn't that old, and the current method isn't really doing a lot to compensate artists fairly. We worked closely with Universal to create this revenue opportunity for artists, as the industry transitions to a time when it can fully take advantage of new opportunities that digital experiences offer, both for consumers and for artists and labels."

There were more than a few eyebrows raised yesterday when it was revealed that Universal would be getting a cut of Zune sales. Unfortunately, Microsoft and Universal couldn't talk specifics, but the former did raise a couple of points today that I thought were worth sharing. Firstly, a portion of the cut goes to Universal's artists. Now who the artists are and how much of that cut they get is still a question mark. We did say they couldn't talk specifics, right? ;-) Secondly, Microsoft is talking to other labels (indies and majors) about the opportunity to participate in a similar manner. Yes, we'll give you a minute to get your head around that one. It's a "power to the labels" approach that not everyone is going to want to embrace. The upside of all this is that there'll be more tracks pre-loaded on the Zune than first announced, and there'll be more tracks available for purchase in the Marketplace (yay to choice). The downside is that over time, the strong-arm tactics of the labels is only going to worsen (nay to money-grubbing). They'll make money off the songs. They'll make money off the hardware. Soon, it'll be your clothes, and your soul.

Engadget's LA Preview Event Gallery

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 04:20 AM


Engadget crashed the LA preview event this week and snapped oodles of pictures for our viewing pleasure. All of a sudden, the brown Zune doesn't seem all that bad. Maybe it's the lighting.


Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Universal Gets a Cut of Zune Sales

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 11:45 PM


"Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) has agreed to pay Universal Music Group a fee for each new Zune digital music player it sells when the iPod rival launches next week, the companies said on Thursday. The groundbreaking deal could redefine the digital music business pioneered by Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research). Rivals including cell phone makers eventually could pay for hardware sales as well as for the music itself, Universal said. Microsoft is trying to break into an industry closely aligned with archival Apple, which is credited with nearly single-handedly building the legal Web music world with its iPod players and iTunes music store. But Apple does not give a cut of sales of iPods to music companies. It only pays labels for songs sold on its iTunes music store."

At this stage, we're not quite sure how this adds up. None of the pre-loaded content appears to belong to Universal or its sub-groups, and they still get a cut even if the user doesn't load a single Universal track on to the device. So what's going on? Perhaps Microsoft and Universal are getting ready to ink a deal that will put the Zune in a favourable light, and this is just a woo tactic to keep Universal from getting too cozy with Apple. We'll be keeping our eye on this one.

Wired Talks About the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 10:30 AM


"I got my hands on a Microsoft Zune portable media player for the first time today at a press event in an industrial part of Manhattan's Chelsea district (the same location where the Zune launch party will be tonight). I'm not going summarize what's already been said, having already posted about the Zune (the summary of another hands-on test, how it doesn't support PlaysforSure, MSN Music's 11/14-starting redirection of sales to the Zune store, speculation about a referral bonus [still unconfirmed although strongly hinted at today], and even a reference to the alleged similarity of the word Zune to a Hebrew swear word). Instead, the focus here is on new aspects of the service, device, and accessories that I noticed today while seeing them in action."

has joined the fortunate few who have managed to get some hands-on time with the Zune. Thankfully, most of their post isn't a re-hash of the points we've heard over and over again. They talk a bit about privacy settings (which is a nice touch for those of you who prefer not to let others know what you're listening to / watching), the time it takes for a transfer (10-15 seconds), streaming content from the Zune software to an Xbox 360 (something we'll definitely be showing the moment we get our hands on a Zune), and what's on the Zune Marketplace (over two million tracks and editorially-featured content). Overall, they were pretty impressed with what they saw, and think that given enough time, iPod sales will suffer.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Watch the Zune Ads

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 07:02 AM

For those of you in the US who tend not to switch on the tele, or for those of you outside the US who are unfortunate enough to miss out on all this Zune action, here's your chance to watch the ads. They may seem a little odd at first, but if you consider who the target audience is, they make sense (though, I admit the whole limb gnawing in The Ballad of Lion and Gazelle is a little strange). Best of all, it's a welcome break from all those silhouette ads that we're used to.

More after the break.


Monday, November 6, 2006

Sizing Up the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM


A Flickr user by the name of "fatherfork" managed to snap a few shots of the Zune (okay, it's a non-functional retail display unit, but it's not like it matters in this case) next to the 5G iPod, iPod nano, Zen Vision:M and Sansa e200 series. While it does appear a little on the large side, Engadget assures us that it's "deceptively small and still quite pocketable". Now that's what we like to hear!

Saturday, November 4, 2006

CNET's First Look at the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 05:18 AM


"Overall, the Zune is a well-designed portable media device with good playback performance, a snappy processor, and an excellent interface. Wi-Fi sharing worked well, but prospective owners should know that its format support, especially for videos, is limited. The Zune looks like a good fit for MP3 player novices."

CNET's James Kim got some hands-on time with the Zune and whipped up a short video preview and a reasonably-sized article. Unlike Engadget's video which has a greater emphasis on the software layer of the Zune device, CNET's video pokes around some of the hardware components, so do check it out. The article covers a lot of points, though one worth highlighting is the issue of file support. By now, you're probably aware that the Zune is not PlaysForSure-compatible, so all of your existing DRM'ed WMA tracks won't work. Native WAV and WMA Lossless are apparently out the door as well, so that leaves you with MP3, unprotected AAC, and Zune's WMA (tracks you'll end up pulling from the Marketplace). Video support is weaker, with the Zune supporting WMV only. There's no love for DivX or XviD. MPEG-4 and H.264 aren't supported natively, though the Zune software on the PC will convert these to WMV. On the topic of video, you can't share them wirelessly, unlike music and pictures, which is understandable considering movie-length videos would take an eternity to send over Wi-Fi (either the battery or user's patience would suffer a miserable death). Pictures are limited to JPEG, and unfortunately, the Zune software won't convert other picture formats to JPEG, so this is something you'll have to perform manually (boo!). Otherwise, the Zune appears to be a smashing device. I certainly hope that Microsoft will solve some of these file support issues with an upcoming firmware update. The Xbox 360 team have done an excellent job at adding new features, so fingers-crossed, the Zune team will follow in their footsteps.

Engadget's Video Walkthrough of the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 12:05 AM


Good ol' Engadget has posted a video walkthrough of the Zune - covering just about every feature that you could poke a stick at. Seeing all this in action makes me want to play with a Zune now. Oh, the agonizing wait. ;-)

Figure 1: Large album art with zero whitespace. Yeah!


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