zune

All signs point to tomorrow as a big day for Windows Phone and Mango, so it shouldn't be of too much surprise that those same servers that will be pushing out Mango to the masses have been turned off.

Specifically, some folks are now trying to upgrade to the developer build (7712) or even the security update (7392) for various reasons and they are finding that Microsoft's servers are reporting their phones as being "up to date" even though they were on the very old 7004 (aka pre-NoDo). Users at XDA and WPCentral forums have both reported the same phenomenon of not being able to do any updates.

The speculation is of course that MS is prepping their servers for Mango and therefore have disabled all further updates. We've also noticed the Marketplace has ceased publishing new apps (though old ones are being updated). We're gonna call this a pretty good sign that something big is about to happen and we're not writing it off as coincidence.

Thanks, Ashish Mohta, for the tip!

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Microsoft's gears are still grinding away with Mango this fall, pushing out USB updates, new Mango apps and even launching the Marketplace in more regions, something that many desperately  want. It's the latter here that is most interesting as Sweden looks to be the lucky country today get Zune Marketplace access.

Reader Bruno H. has sent in these images along with his story about how very recently this all went live:

"Yesterday when i opened Zune on my pc, suddenly there was a new option in Zune that I had never seen before.

It was the Marketplace that had opened. I could rent movies (for points) and purchase and download WP7 Apps (for money). I bought an app I had on trial (Sally's Salon) to try the functionality. The Purchase went through but Sally on my WP7 device (Samsung Omnia 7) never got updated. Could be that I need Mango to get the purchases to download through Zune?"

Currency is in the native kronor as well. As to why Bruno can't actually update his phone with the game, we're not entirely sure but he may be on to something that this requires Mango on the phone already. If not, the other explanation is that things are completely "live" yet. Either way, it's nice to see the juggernaut that is Microsoft and Windows Phone trudging forward. Hopefully more territories are coming next. Thanks Bruno for reaching out to us and congrats!

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If you blink, you might have missed it but Zune's desktop software has been updated to version 4.8. The update will allow Zune to communicate correctly with Windows Phone 7.5 (more affectionately known as Mango). So if you're planning to update your Windows Phone, you'll need to update Zune.

According to the update's release, the update has the following features to make the update process go smoother and faster.

  • Progressive updates: In Zune 4.8, you only have to click the update button once for multiple updates. Once an update is finished, the software automatically checks for more and repeats the installation process until your phone is completely up to date.
  • Streamlined backup: By synching media separately from other phone content, we’ve lowered the overall time it takes to back up your phone. The backup file is also more compact, so it should take up less space on your computer.
  • Skip phone backup: If you don’t have enough room on your computer to store a phone backup file, you’ll now have the option to skip this step so you’re not blocked from updating your phone.

The process is painless and takes about five minutes. Just go into your Zune Settings, choose Software and General Category (column on the left). Towards the bottom of the screen you'll see a button to "check for updates". Follow the update steps, accept the terms, then sit back and relax. If you are new to Windows Phones and haven't installed Zune, you can find the updated version here.

Now for the speculation. With Microsoft releasing the update to Zune, could Mango be right around the corner?

source: windowsteamblog

Thanks goes out to Shipwreck, David and everyone else who tipped us on this!

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It seems Australia are in line for some Zune improvements. The Mango 4.8 Zune client displays the music tab when locality is set to Australia and/or an Australian Live ID is used. What's more interesting is that while there's only a small selection of songs and albums available, it does reveal a proposed pricing scheme (using Microsoft Points).

Songs will set music lovers back 129 points (AUD$2.13) and albums seem to be priced per song, capped at 1299 points (AUD$21.43). As an extra bonus, Microsoft has also reportedly enabled podcasts too. These are positive signs for the expanding Zune service in Australia accompanying Windows Phone Mango and the Zune Pass.

Source: iStartedSomething

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It’s no secret that Microsoft is consolidating several of its brands into the uber-successful Xbox brand. Just last week we reported that the Games for Windows website is moving to Xbox.com. In the last few days, Microsoft phased out Zune original sales on their site. And of course, it’s long been rumored that the Zune brand will split up into several tiny robot lion brands.

That rumor gains more credence thanks to some recently-released screenshots of the upcoming fall Xbox 360 dashboard update. Not only does it look super slick and Windows 8-ey, but it’s also lacking the Zune logo in its music and videos sections. Zune, we’ll always have Paris.

The big question though: How will this matter to Windows Phone, going forward?


Update: Looks like Thurrott may have been a a little quick on the gun. Zune is still listed as an App in the new Xbox hub, as seen above. It's just not named for Music/Music, which may be the area in which you access local media, whereas Zune is for streaming, etc. Read more at They Lyons Den.

Source: Supersite for Windows, Live Side

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Win two 3-month Zune subscriptions

The Zune team are giving away two three month Zune Pass subscriptions to two lucky winners (so that's 6 months worth of Zune goodness each), which can be used on your Windows Phone 7 handset. To be eligible for the tweepstake, you must have a Twitter account (who doesn't these days?) and be over the age of 14, living in the US.

Entering the competition is as easy as 1, 2, 3 (no, really):

  1. Follow @ZuneSupport and visit the tweepstake page.
  2. Tweet the phrase found at the top of the page.
  3. Submit all required information in the survey. Done!

For more information (and to enter), check out the tweepstake page. Be sure to familiarise yourself with the guidelines.

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In the Redmond, WA Area? Have two hours to kill? If so, Microsoft User Research is looking for Zune Pass users to participate in a two hour study. The study will take place on Microsoft’s Redmond campus with participants offered a choice of new Microsoft software, hardware or games from a list of our current most popular titles.

Sound interesting? To sign up for the survey just send the following information to uccoord@microsoft.com with “Zune” in the title:

  • Name/Phone Number
  • Job/Company
  • Are you a monthly subscriber to Zune Pass?
  • How frequently do you watch movies online on your computer/console (Hulu, Netflix, Zune, etc.)?
  • How often do you make online purchases with a debit or credit card?

The study is between 3:30-6:30pm. Microsoft hopes to use the feedback and opinions for what they are describing as the next generation of Microsoft services and products.

UPDATE: Microsoft has pushed the date of the survey back and extended the hours.  The new date and time for the Zune Pass Survey is July 8th from 8:00am until 6:30pm PDT.  You still need to be in Redmond to participate but at least now you've got a little time to make the trek.  Thanks Eli for the update!

Source: Facebook

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It's been revealed that there are plans for some apps on Zune HD to be ported onto the Windows Phone platform. This is fantastic news if this goes ahead at some point due to the quality of apps available to Zune HD users is pretty high and the WP7 Marketplace could always use a slight positive boost (especially with recent spam).

In a Zune Insider podcast, Zune senior business development manager, Dave McLauchlan explained that Zune HD apps could make an appearance in the WP7 Marketplace.

"A question I keep getting around apps on Zune [HD] is, what about porting to Windows Phone? There are many thousands of apps on the Windows Phone Marketplace, it’s going gangbusters and not so much on the Zune HD Marketplace. And that’s by design, we designed the system such that we would have a very public, very open marketplace for Windows Phone. But hey, what about the apps that are on Zune [HD]? We had some very good apps there. When are they coming to Windows Phone?

The answer to that question is two-fold. Number one, we actually have some developers that have developed titles for Zune [HD] that aren’t Microsoft employees or aren’t on the Zune team. And those guys are very welcome to go and create apps for Windows Phone any time they like. The apps that we have built internally for Zune [HD], we’re actually looking at porting those over to Windows Phone. Right now, our focus for the app team is, more apps for Zune [HD]. Zune [HD] owners would like to hear that there’s more stuff coming. So that’s definitely the case."

You can check out the podcast where you can witness the banter surrounding the topic. What apps would you like to see ported?

Via: AnythingbutiPhone and Windows Phone Secrets

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Having bought my partner (who resides in Turkey) the HTC Trophy as she's smart and didn't want the iPhone or limited Android devices available (Turkey is horrible for smartphones, had to buy the Trophy here in the UK), I know second hand how frustrating it is for someone to use services on their WP7 outside supported countries. She gets by with Xbox Live and the Marketplace working fine with my bank card on file, but we've had to use workarounds and more to get the base line functionality working.

While we haven't attempted to get Zune Pass working with OTA music streaming, it seems there are plans for services to be moved beyond the US and UK so hopefully everything should work when Microsoft enhance their coverage (doubtful Turkey will be included). Joe Belfiore (Corporate Vice President of WP) mentioned, while enjoying the Mango Twitter integration, that there are plans in the works to expand the Zune services along with speech and more. This would definitely be a step in the right direction, especially for countries that don't have the services to cater for smartphones. 

We will keep an eye on the Windows Phone Team blog for more detail when released.

Source: Twitter, via: 1800 PocketPC

Update: Andrew Birch has posted a table which will be updated as country support is updated, very handy to bookmark and keep an eye on it!

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The Windows Phone Blog has a nice writeup on the new features we will see in the Mango Music + Video Hub. We've known about some of the features for awhile now (see our "Big Mango consumer list" for what we know so far), but it's great to have official confirmation and more details. There are also quite a few smaller updates that don't merit their own bullet point, but will help smooth out the experience.

The on-device podcast support is a welcome feature, and many users have been asking for it since day one. The iPhone supports it out of the box, and there are a few apps in the Marketplace (e.g. Bring Cast and Podcasts!) that offer some podcast functionality, but so far, only Windows Phone has announced on-device podcast subscriptions, baked into the OS. The standard download-for-later, and stream-it-now options are supported, and users will be able to download or stream over WiFi or GSM/CDMA. New podcasts will only download automatically while your phone is charging, though, and for now, it looks like this is a US only feature. 

One of the Zune's greatest features is the Smart DJ (see earlier leak). Smart DJ mixes have always been playable on your Windows Phone, but you've had to create them on your computer, and transfer them over. Mango will give us the ability to generate them on the device, by just long-tapping the "seed" artist, song, or album, and selecting "smart dj." The Music +Video hub will then store your mixes in the History pivot.

To round out the experience, the team has modified the UI/UX a bit. They have moved around a few items, like the repeat and shuffle buttons, to make them easier to find, added bigger playback control buttons, added lock-screen music controls, better images, lockscreen album art, a streaming icon, and on-device playlist creation.

Jump on past the break for the full changelog from Microsoft themselves...it's quite the read.

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WP7 Backup tool [Homebrew]

A member over at the XDA Developer forum, by the username hx4700Killer, has come up with a backup tool for your Windows Phone 7 device. It's a simple .Net program that allows users to backup their device via Zune and can be used for restoration when you use the "update" option.

There are a few prerequisites that need to be seen to before-hand:

  • Zune software installed (sorry OS X users)
  • Windows Phone Support Tool installed (x64 or x86)
  • An update package from any phone (link)

Should you be missing any of the above the application will alert you and even open a web page to point you in the correct direction for the absent link in the chain. To download and find out more information, check the source below.

Source: XDA Dev Forum, via PocketPC.ch; Thanks Stevie B., for the heads up

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Eck, there's just rumor upon rumor tonight. This one is from MS_Nerd again, who at least has a solid track record. In a few new tweets, he drops some bombshells:

  1. 3 "new" hardware partners for Windows Phone to be announced
  2. The full Mango wave will launch with ff-cams (front-facing cameras)
  3. Zune Pass will slowly be merged with Xbox Live Gold, adding more 3rd-party content to the subscription (like ESPN).

The first one seems like a nice middle ground between "we'll see new phones tomorrow" and the "we won't camp". Perhaps we'll just hear (or even see) some new devices but from new OEMs (Acer, Asus and ?). The second also seems plausible--heck Microsoft did just buy Skype, it makes sense they'd want to bullet-proof their upcoming phones once they figure out how to integrate "Microsoft Skype" into our OS.

Finally, the third fits in with all the Zune-being-re branded/changed rumors. We suppose it even makes sense to merge the two as they are very similar, no? As Xbox and Zune services grow tighter, it'd make sense to merge those ecosystems. Plus, you know, perhaps MS Points can finally buy music (on the go) or apps, eh?

Source: @MS_Nerd 1 and 2

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As the title says, file this under rumor...but one that may be detailed this Tuesday, the 24th.

According to @MS_Nerd, who has an interesting history with leaks from within Microsoft, the Zune services as we know them will be broken apart, presumably in response to the Nokia deal, which is making some of the backend redundant:

"Wee little rumor seeping out now: Zune next to be split into Xbox mobile, Xbox Live & Windows Live Zune on the 24th."

"And the Zune backend platform will become a "Nokia services on Azure" offering, with content from Netflix, Last.fm & Hulu among others."

If true, this comes a little more than 2-years after the first Zune team was broken up into hardware and software services, with the former being absorbed under the Windows Mobile group. Now it's the latter which is being divvied and presumably gobbled up by other divisions within the company.

There's been talk for awhile now of "Zune re-branding" and something happening within that division, so this isn't too far fetched. We'll see what happens, if anything, this Tuesday.

Source: @MS_Nerd 1, 2; Thanks, Amir, for the heads up

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A recent job posting over on Microsoft Careers has caused a wave of speculation that Zune music services may be getting renamed to "Xbox Live Music."  The posting, entitled "Business Manager-IEB-Xbox Live Music Marketplace," calls for a candidate who is "passionate about driving [Microsoft's] first party Music business in the US across multiple tuner end points; Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7, PC, WWW and Bing."  Most notably, the would-be Interactive Entertainment Business team member would be "responsible for management of relationships with two of the four major record labels as well as a number of high profile indie labels, and creating strategies around content to drive the Zune Music business."

The new moniker seems to be in line with Microsoft's decision to kill off the Zune music player back in March, followed by the guarantee that their Zune Hardware Business Developer would "be going to work tomorrow."  The Zune media player never quite took off the way MS would have liked, but the marketplace was a great infrastructure in which to base WP7's app store.  Perhaps the potential name change is simply the first step in a re-branding to bring Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, and Zune together.  One green ring to rule them all!

Source: Microsoft Careers; Via: WPSauce

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More concept designs for WP7

Adrian Manteuffel has created some concept designs that cover multitasking on the platform as well as further customization of Metro UI, which includes altering tile transparency, changing themes (beyond what's currently available) and applying wallpapers to the home screen.

The above concept shows multitasking added in on the right-hand side of the home screen, which is probably not a bad idea (if you don't mind losing more 'negative space' which the UI is famed for), but I don't see it working with a large number of apps open at once - I don't think a scrollable list on the side of the tiles is a good idea.

For the email tile that now takes up two positions, I don't like at all. I'm a heavy email user (compared to SMS anyway) and I prefer to have a minimal amount of tiles present. Unless that email tile can flip through the email accounts every few seconds then I don't see that being adopted by many.

See the other two designs after the break.

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Recent reports have suggested that the almighty powerful Steve Ballmer has shelved plans to build a staggering 300 Microsoft stores to compete with Apple. While this is probably a good move as they’re still building on WP7’s early days, the question should be put forward to them, do they need the stores? More importantly, do we need them?

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One of our readers, Kibosh, has posted on our forum that he seems to be experiencing some issues with language in the Marketplace. Being fluent in Dutch (with good English), he has trouble browsing and - in rare cases - using apps on his device due to the Marketplace being displayed in French.

I'm a Dutch speaking Belgium guy owning a nice HTC Mozart and I'm happy with it. Only there is one major thing wrong with it and that is that the marketplace displays French. There are some more smaller things, but this language issue is for me very annoying.

Because not many people know Belgium (I guess), there are three official languages. Dutch (Me), French and a small part German. For some reason, Microsoft decided to offer the marketplace only in French for Belgium. I can assure you that they made a big mistake. We, the Flemish, speak better English then French. Also there are 6,200,000 Flemish and 3,500,000 French. You can do the math. Consider also the fact that Belgium is going through a political crisis about French vs Flemish and you can see the size of the error.

As one could imagine, this is frustrating for Kibosh and he posted a reply to a Microsoft Answers thread covering language issues on Windows Mobile. Doing some searching, we managed to come across a similar scenario where someone from Switzerland had to browse the Marketplace in German. A few replies later and a solution was posted for a new Live ID and Zune account to be created (with correct settings to force English or a desired language), coupled with resetting the device to attach the new accounts.

Seems a bit much work to change the language, hopefully Microsoft will work on a feature that allows one to alter their language across their Live ID, Zune account and device with one selection. Have you had any trouble with the wrong language being displayed in the Marketplace?

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In what looks like a big move for Microsoft, they have finally launched their Zune Marketplace in India, opening a potentially huge market to Windows Phone.

Windows Phone Sauce (who we are gathering are based in India) have been able to confirm that the Marketplace is live and kicking, accepting payments in Rupees (see screenshot above). Microsoft themselves have not made any official announcement, so this still may be a soft launch for the marketplace as they test the waters, so to speak.

Either way, this is a good sign as this may be the beginning of Microsoft's larger push into regions not previously covered by Windows Phone. Currently, the HTC HD7 and Dell Venue Pro are being sold in India, even though MS didn't officially offer any support there, until today that is.

Source: Windows Phone Sauce

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Attention fellow OS X users, Windows Phone 7 Connector 1.1 is here! Not much to report on (feature wise) since their gold release, but there is one huge improvement in functionality for majority of users. The software can now be configured to start up automatically when a supported device is detected. I was always unsure as to why this wasn't available from the off.

As well as the above change, we have performance improvements and high CPU synchronisation issues solved which is a welcomed fix. The only feature we need now is actual Zune service integration so we can use our passes without firing up the web browser.

If you haven't done so already, download the connector now.

Thanks Ali for the tip!

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Microsoft has responded to the "Zune (hardware) is dead" meme that has taken off like a hurricane ever since the Bloomberg article the other day:

“We have nothing to announce about another Zune device -- but most recently have introduced Zune HD to Canada via the Zune Originals store and remain committed to supporting our devices in North America,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “We are thrilled by the consumer excitement for Zune across many new platforms, including Windows Phone 7 and Xbox 360. Our long-term strategy focuses on the strength of the entire Zune ecosystem across Microsoft platforms.”

That sure doesn't sound like a denial, lending more credence to the Bloomberg claim from "sources familiar". Now, Dave McLauchlan, who does business development at Microsoft for the Zune HD, has now responded in the Anything But Ipod forums, where he's been a member since 2006. While not revealing anything too specific, it sure sounds as if the story is more...complicated...than Bloomberg has made it out to be. We'll just quote the meaty parts of his post:

"I've had tweets, emails, PMs and phone calls. People offering condolences, checking in on me, etc... etc... Stop, stop, stop!

The Bloomberg article is NOT an official statement from Microsoft (apart from the quote above). The headline is purportedly from a "person familiar with the matter" - which of course tells you nothing.

Here's what you should know - ALL consumer electronics products have a lifespan, and the Zune HD is 18mo old. We were completely frank about this year's Zune hardware being the WP7 phones, and we continue to both sell and fully support the Zune HD line of products. And as I've promised - we continue to bring new apps and games to the platform. More of those are in the works, I promise you.

I manage business development for Zune hardware, and I still have that job. Our PR folks released a statement today that included the text: "We’ll share more information about the evolution of the Zune entertainment service and Zune hardware as future plans develop."

To be 100% clear - NO information about our future plans, no matter what the incarnation, has been shared. Until then treat with healthy skepticism anything you read. That's probably a good general rule actually.

So for those who tweeted or emailed asking what I'm "going to do now" - I'll be going to work tomorrow, working on Zune hardware bizdev. And when Microsoft announces news that is actually news, you'll hear it from us directly, and I'll be sure to pass it on immediately. Only then should you take it as gospel."

Cheers, Dave.

We're not 100% sure what to make of this outside he still has a job working on Zune hardware and evidently it's not as black and white as everyone seems to be thinking it is. Of course if Zune hardware is dead, it forces the question of why Microsoft, and now McLauchlan, are pushing backing looking to clarify the matter. Like we said, we think there may be more to this story than what we know so far.

Source: Anything But Ipod Forums; via ZuneBoards; Thanks, @hallucinogen52

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