zune

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My Thoughts on Windows Phone 7 (Tim Ferrill)

Watching the growth of Windows Phone 7 over this past year has been an exercise in patience. Microsoft’s strategy of showing the customers what they were working on months ahead of an actual release is very different that what one would expect from a company like Apple, where they announce a product only after it was already in production. The advantage of Microsoft’s strategy is that they have received feedback from both developers and consumers on the different features and functionality that will be included or (in some cases) left out. I really think Windows Phone 7 will be a better product because of this strategy.

Hit the break for all of my thoughts on Windows Phone 7.

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It's been longed rumored that Microsoft was going to make the Zune software compatibile with Apple's desktop OS, but the question still remains when? While we still don't know the answer to the latter question, we now know officially that Microsoft is making the Zune software Mac friendly syncing possible between Windows Phone 7 and a Mac (see Update 2, below).

In a Tweet that was posted (and quickly deleted), Oded Ran, Head of Consumer Marketing, Windows Phone, UK, basically announced that Mac users will be able to use Zune on their computers with "more details soon" as a tease.

Offering such compatibility between Macs and Windows Phone 7 is important to take the fight to Apple, we suppose, though it's unclear how many Apple fans will really ditch their iTunes/iPhone mini-closed empire for the "enemy's offerings". In that sense, this move is probably more symbolic than strategic in the long run, but it's one of those things that is very symbolic. Plus we know there has to be a few Apple fans who want Windows Phone 7, right?

Update: Evidently Microsoft decided to reveal a little bit more stating "Later in 2010 Microsoft will make a public beta available of a tool that allows Windows Phone 7 to sync select content with Mac computers."

Update 2: And it's not Zune software, according to Thurrott, but a way for Mac users to sync content to their devices. Ah, the finer differences in life.

[via Neowin.net & Engadget]

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For those of you who have not yet joined the Zune network, Microsoft is giving away 3 months of it for free if you pre-order a new device with Windows Phone 7.

In the U.S. (where this offer is only valid, sorry ROW), this adds up to a savings of $45 ($14.99 a month) and is a great way to give the Zune music and video marketplace a trial three months. As mentioned numerous times here, a Zune Pass allows unlimited streaming and downloading of music to your phone, Xbox 360 and PC, plus you can "keep" 10 songs a month (MP3).

According to Microsoft:

Sign-up to be notified to pre-order the new Windows Phone, and we’ll give you unlimited music for 3 months with a Zune Pass—FREE*. Just give us your email address. When Windows Phone is ready to pre-order, use the same e-mail address you sent to us, and when your Windows Phone ships, we’ll send you a 3-month Zune Pass, free.

Not a bad deal if you ask us (especially since we're huge Zune Pass fans, but you knew that already).

[Microsoft via Neowin.net]

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Microsoft has released Windows Live Messenger for the Zune HD. Messenger for the Zune will let you check out social updates from Facebook, Flickr, or MySpace and chat with your friends. It also supports Facebook Chat just like Messenger on your Windows PC.

Messenger is available for download through the Zune Marketplace and could be a good indicator on what Messenger on Windows Phone 7 might look like.

via: windowsteamblog

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In preparation for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is rolling out a beta-preview update for some Xbox users that features some new things including access to the Zune Marketplace, a re-designed UI and streaming video content (reported here earlier). The full preview contains: "ESPN on Xbox LIVE, Zune music, Netflix search, the new Xbox LIVE dashboard, and new updates to Zune video and Family Settings "

The new UI is very minimalist, having removed the next and previous "rows" from view and instead makes them just text when not highlighted. The effect is much cleaner looking now and truth be told, it's also much faster.

The Zune Marketplace allows you to buy or rent TV/movies in Standard or High Definition for various prices points ~200-300 points to rent ($3-4 roughly); ~800 points to buy (~$10).  Rentals are for 24 hours, whereas buying it allows you to stream or download (and later can sync to our devices with Windows Phone 7). The movie, TV and video selection id decent with content mostly geared to males aged 15-35).

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a way to stream music or podcasts directly from your Zune account and it's not clear if that is something they are planning. But overall the update is looking quite nice and we're pleased..

We'll have more coverage and an HD video up, probably in the AM tomorrow (as soon as our video camera shows up). Ask any questions in comments and we'll try to answer. For now, you can check out some more snapshots of the new UI and Zune Marketplace after the break!

Update: Received some clarification via email "...with Zune Pass, our monthly music subscription service, you stream or download as many songs as you like from the Zune Marketplace and listen to them for as long as you hold your subscription – on your PC, Windows Phone, Xbox, or in any browser via zune.net".  Sweet!

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Microsoft just announced their international roll-out of the Zune music and entertainment service to more than 20 countries this fall. Seeing as the Zune marketplace and software is at the core of Windows Phone 7, this announcement is not too surprising, but it is welcomed nonetheless.

Beginning this fall (we bet October), Microsoft will make the Zune services available in U.K., France, Italy, Germany and Spain and 15 other European countries (part of that EFIGS list, no doubt). In addition, we'll see the new Zune software bumped to v4.7 which will add the Windows Phone 7 device support (goodbye ActiveSync!).

The Zune marketplace allows syncing of music, videos, podcasts (audio and video), pictures, games/applications and will now includes the ability to watch HD movies:

The updated Zune software will also enable instant streaming of high-definition movies, allowing you to watch some Zune Marketplace movies in HD, with no download time, directly on a Windows PC.

Consumers will now be able to purchase movies to download and watch anywhere — on the big screen in the living room with Xbox LIVE or their Windows-based PC as well as sync it to their Windows Phone 7 to enjoy on the go.

Huzzah! We like this a lot.

Prices in the U.S. will remain the same at $14.99/month for the Zune Pass (not required), which gives unlimited music downloads and the ability to "keep" 10 MP3s a month. (So much for that price reduction rumor).

No word on Mac support, but we're assuming Microsoft will do something about that in the future as well--after all, large updates to our new phones are reliant on desktop-syncing (with small updates available OTA).

What can we say? We love the Zune marketplace, Zune Pass and the ability for '3 screen' support of all our music, podcasts, pictures and now HD movies and TV. We can't wait till this all comes together in a few weeks...you?

Read the full presser after the break.

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A Zune HD2? Maybe.

When it comes to the Zune HD and its successor, the rumor has been thus for awhile: there may or may not be one other iteration of the series before it's folded into the Windows Phone eco-system.

And to be honest, the rumor has been tilting towards no Zune HD2 for somewhat obvious reasons listed below.

But now according to Mary Jo Foley (more specifically, her tipster), it looks like Microsoft may attempt a Zune HD2 but not till sometime in 2011, meaning this is all but vaporware at this point, but still interesting vaporware.

After Microsoft had its Windows Phone 7 reset, talk of a new ZuneHD2 tapered off. But lately, I’ve been hearing that, in spite of the Zune HD’s not-so-stellar sales, plus Microsoft’s failure to make the hardware available outside the U.S., the Softies may still have one more digital-media player coming. My rumormonger says it could be a calendar 2011 deliverable and possibly could sport an ARM processor of some kind. The Zune HD2 would incorporate a number of the UI changes from the Windows Phone 7 folks, the tipster claims — which makes sense given the Windows Phone 7 UI borrowed so heavily from the Zune HD UI.

No word from my tipster on dimensions, price, will/won’t there be cameras or any other details users might want to know about a potential new Zune HD. Also no word on how Microsoft might position such a device if it ever comes to market: Would it be more like a “Windows Phone 7 Lite”/iPod Touch? A gaming-focused handheld like the rumored Sony PSP Go successor? Or more like a mini slate/tablet (like one of those new Archos 28s running Froyo)?

Yeah, so this is just an unconfirmed rumor at this point, but one that is quite possible--after all, Apple still has luck in doing the whole iPod/iPhone thing, so if Windows Phone 7 is a hit, why not Microsoft?

 

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Looks like the folks at Microsoft are still continuing to roll out applications and mini-games for the Zune HD, some of which are being ported over to Windows Phone 7 e.g. 'Goosplat'.

Two news ones that are now available are 'Music Quiz' which  uses the Zune's music library to...well quiz you on music. Functioning like those common bar-quizzes, the game allows you to pick an artist, genre or playlist to test your skills on two-levels: 'normal' and 'hardcore'.  

The other game, 'Animalgrams',  falls into the puzzle category as it uses 'the Jungle of the Savanna' as a background theme for figuring out anagrams.  Hmmm...witty one there, Microsoft.

Both look like great time-killers and are quite fun. These two new games brings the ZuneHD game count up to 14--not bad for free, as all are actually really enjoyable.We also really hope 'Music Quiz' makes it over to the WP7 Marketplace some time. Fire up your Zune connect software and head to the Marketplace to download.

As always, both are free.

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In addition to the basic functions of TellMe for Windows Phone 7, including make a call, do a search and launch a program, evidently you can also command the device to play music, much like our current phones.

MobilitySite published a list of the commands themselves, which should be familiar enough to any long time VoiceCommand user. The Zune command is in the following format:

“Play ” where the category will be artist, album, song, etc and the item will be an item of the category you listed. i.e. “Play Artist U2”.

So that's some good news even though many of you have expected that feature to be there anyways.  In addition, since TellMe is primarily a cloud-based system, we expect the TellMe function to grow and expand with future updates to the OS, enabling a host of other features. On launch, we'll settle for the basics we suppose.

Now f I could only muster the confidence to blurt out "Play Lady Gaga Poker Face" in public, I'll be all set. 

[via WMPU]

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Your guess is as good as ours as to what Microsoft's currently teasing on Twitter. So far, they've only said "Don’t be so touchy…flat is where it’s at." Maybe it's a new Zune HD. Or maybe it's a Windows Phone 7 device. (But with Microsoft branding!?!?) A tablet? An e-reader? Some sort of trackpad? Search us, but we'll be keeping an eye on it, for sure. [via @msfthardware]

Update: So Neowin is reporting that this lil' gizmo is the new Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, which supposedly features a multi-touch track pad on top and acts as a mouse otherwise. This is reportedly to take advantage of the multi-touch features of Windows 7 without investing in an expensive screen. Sounds cool. It's supposed to be available in September.  -Malatesta

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In a continuing effort to revamp and modernize the Zune Marketplace in anticipation of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will now allow you to purchase songs with just a credit card. This is evidently the follow up to this story we did a few months ago, talking about the Xbox. This is especially useful when searching for an artist or song via Bing, where you can now be taken to the Zune Store to buy the song directly, similar to Amazon.com or iTunes.

While this sounds extremely obvious, up until now you had to buy into the "points" system of Microsoft, which like Xbox, would allow you to transfer those for songs. Yes, it is overly complex and at times leaves you with a useless 'balance' of points, requiring you to purchase more points in bulk.

Of course Zune Pass users won't notice any changes but for the soon to be throngs of users who are new to the Marketplace, it will be a big step. Yahoo News also notes these interesting figures in terms of marketshare: Zune is at 2.6 percent to iTunes’ 69.1 percent and AmazonMP3’s 7.6 percent.. Got a long way to go baby.

Anyone else really dig the ad-free lyrics service in Bing provided by LyricFind? We would still love to see this implemented directly on Windows Phone 7 and Zune HD.

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Bing + Zune = happiness

For those who don't know, the Zune Marketplace went offline today and users were only given a few hours notice. As of this writing, they're still offline (6pm) and it could take all night before they're done.

But done doing what? That's the cryptic part here as there was no pre-announcement, but as ZDNet did some digging, they found out that Microsoft is arranging a marriage between Bing and Zune.

In fact, you can kind of see it working now. Go to Bing.com, search for your favorite band and you'll get a bunch of info on them plus songs which can be played (see the little 'play' button?). Of course it doesn't stream right now and instead you get the image to the right, but we think by late tonight it'll be a different story.

Nice to see Microsoft taking Zune to the next level and putting these two services together, it just makes sense. To what extent though these features overlap remains to be seen. It would be nice to have a Bing search launch my Zune software and add it directly to my Zune HD or, come November, my Xbox and Windows Phone 7.

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Awhile back, Microsoft bought an advertising company called Razorfish, who now handles a lot of those video clips for them promoting their products. We like 'em. They even created that "giant interactive Windows Phone7" we see at many events.

A few of them just created this "commercial" that highlights the power of Windows Phone 7 and the ability of it to sync with the Zune music/video suite. It's sort of an extension of the original Windows Phone 7 "features" video that made the rounds in February.

We're not sure if this is an "official" ad or whether it will be used anywhere but we think it's actually effective. And that, my friends, is something we're not used to saying about Microsoft when they pimp their products.

But what do you think? Is this the kind of thing that you think would grab people's attention? Let us know below and watch the commercial after the break.

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Competition is hot these days in the music-download biz and Microsoft's $14.99 a month Zune Pass may instead get chopped down to $9.99, according to senior product manager Terry Farrell in an interview with Business Week.

While Phil and I think the $14.99 a month price is fair (you get to purchase 10 songs a month with that $14.99, in addition to unlimited downloading), others in the industry, notably Amazon and Rhapsody, offer a similar service for $10.

Microsoft does need to position itself here carefully: they want to make a profit and find that sweet spot, but they also want to make sure when you buy an upcoming Windows Phone 7 device, you take advantage of the Zune Marketplace.

Finding just the right combo could be killer, because while Amazon has some presence on mobile (notably Android), Rhapsody is less straight-forward and has less presence. (Plus in comparison, Zune Marketplace is a better experience than Amazon's on Android). This is still the one area that Microsoft can really exploit against Apple, who still don't have a monthly pass subscription.

And while they're at it, we'd like to see Microsoft implement some type of Zune Video Pass, which was rumored to be coming. The idea of having unlimited video streaming/downloading on my Windows Phone 7 would be fantastic.

[via Business Week & Zune Boards]

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5

Zune HD gets Doom, becomes a man

Since there is quite the backlash from so-called "power users" against Windows Phone 7 (it is quite the a change), learning to hack and break down the new walled garden of Microsoft will be the new rage we predict.  

And while the Zune HD and Windows Phone 7 only share some similar code/structure, learning to port games,load hacks and implement tricks on one may help with the other.

Just days afters basically jail braking the Zune HD, it has past a rite of passage: playing Doom.

Sure, it's nothing amazing and it's sort of the least you expect after this long a time, but hey, at least we now know the question: But can it play Doom? Here's to doing the same on WP7.

[ZuneBoards via Engadget]

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One of the larger concerns we've heard regarding Windows Phone 7 is its relatively closed nature, sending shivers -- or sounding a battle cry -- through the likes of XDA Developers and other hacking sites. And it looks like the call to arms has been answered, as the Zune firmware has been cracked open, paving the way for sideloading apps outside of the Zune Marketplace. As the heroes put it, "the limitations of XNA are now no limitations at all."

Here's to hoping we see some killer apps in the near future, and later on Windows Phone 7. [Zuneboards via Engadget]

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The Zune HD is as close as you can currently (and officially) get to Windows Phone 7, and it's now even closer, thanks to a new firmware update released today.

What dost thou receive with the update? Smart DJ Mix, currently only available on the desktop software, is now available on-device. You also can get personalized music recommendations directly on the Zune HD, browse the Zune Marketplace while the Zune HD is connected to your TV and expanded video codecs.

So if you've got one, plug 'er in and let us know how it goes. [Zune Forums]

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For those curious, the Zune connector i.e. the sync/charge interface cable from the Microsoft Zune series, won't be used at all with Windows Phone 7 Series devices.

That's the good news, since said Zune connector is a little large and more than a little proprietary.

The bad news is that the WP7s chassis specifications don't require any specific sync/charge format, meaning OEMs who make our next-gen phones are free to use Mini-USB, Micro-USB or even their own proprietary format.

Now we hope OEMs have learned their lesson in regards to that last one, so we don't think we'll see many of those. Still, for those wanting a definitive decision with regards to Micro or Mini USB ... looks like Microsoft is going to let the old free market decide. [via Windows Phone Secrets]

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We're a little more than a week away from likely finding out what all the Windows Phone Seven (or Windows Mobile 7, or Seven, or whatever) is all about. And that means it's time for more rumors to come crawling out of the woodwork.

After the break, let's tackle the latest batch that was seeded to a couple of sites (Mobile Tech World and PPCGeeks) and what we think of them.

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Microsoft, again: no Zune phone

Looks like Microsoft is once again denying anything about a Zune phone. Quoting a Microsoft spokesperson: "we have no plans to create a Zune phone," which seems pretty open and shut.

Then again ... Assuming there is something in the works, it's not like they would confirm either.  And as NeoWin points out, they also denied ever making an MP3 player, too.

With the rumors flying high this week, especially with the USB reference codes found in the .inf file from the latest Zune software update, Microsoft is probably feeling some heat from their OEMs over the issue--don't forget, they are also very interested in the prospect/denial of such a device.  We can understand if they are nervous and causing some little waves with Redmond.

Regarding that Zune update, consensus seems to be swaying from an actual "Zune phone" to "these are plans to incorporate the Zune experience into Windows Mobile,"

Check out Paul Thurrott's piece over at WinSuperSite, which delves deeper into that issue as well as detailing the recent changes to the Zune software, it's a good read.

Oh Mobile World Congress, you can't come soon enough.  Please rescue us from ourselves.

[via NeoWin.net]

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