zune hd

We touched on Microsoft announcing the news that Australia will be getting the Zune Pass on November 16th, but new details have come to light about what will (and wont be) present and included in the subscription. With the announcement being made by Microsoft, WPDownUnder contacted the software giant for clarification on features tied to the Zune Pass:

  • Artist biographies won't be present. Background are will be available but only for international artists, not local ones.
  • Individual tracks and album purchases will be made possible by MS points or an attached credit card.
  • Australia will not be getting Zune podcast support.
  • Zune Pass will work with Australians who own an Australia-only Live ID.
  • Australian Zune HD owners will not be able to view (or download) free apps and games on the app Marketplace.

With the Zune Pass Australian launch just around the corner, more information is likely to come to light in the coming days. WPDownUnder is set to interview a local Microsoft representative to hopefully extract more information surrounding the release of the Zune Pass.

Source: WPDownUnder

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13

Zune HD dead again?

Okay. Remember the Zune HD? Well, it appears to be dead again.

We first saw it removed from the sales channel, then we were told that was a publishing mishap. We then saw it being removed from production on the support page.  This was again reported as a publishing error when @WP_DownUnder looked into things further.

Now the support page is back and again, we are being told by Microsoft that the Zune HD is no longer in production. The support page that re-appeared over the weekend is the same page we saw last week (that was reported to be a publishing error). 

Microsoft is still going to honor existing device warranties and support.  Which is a good thing.  It would have been nice if Microsoft would have added "Seriously. We're not fooling this time." on the support page but that might be asking too much.

So far no officials odds have been posted in Vegas on whether or not Microsoft will come out and say this was another publishing mishap. If so, they may want to re-evaluate who's hitting the "publish" button on their websites.

Source: Zune.net via: LiveSide

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You've got to wonder if Mark Twain had the Zune HD in mind when he said, "The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated".  Yep, that's right.  It looks as if the Zune HD is still kicking.

Remember yesterday when we shared the Zune HD support page that said the devices were no longer in production? Where Microsoft would continue to honor warranties and support the devices but were focusing on the Windows Phone as their mobile music and video devices? Well that page is now gone.

You also have a tweet from @ZuneSupport stating that support page was added in error. Just as pulling the Zune HD from sales channels was a publishing mishap?

We still believe that Microsoft will end production of the Zune players. Microsoft may just need a bigger boat to pull the Zune HD off the market. Either that or get the Zune Team all on the same page the next time they report the unfortunate death of the Zune HD to avoid a trilogy.

via: @WP_DownUnder/WP Down Under

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Earlier we reported that Zune players had been removed from the Zune.net sales channels. We then were informed by Michael Yeager, a Zune Team member, that such removal was a mistake due to a publishing mishap and that the Zune HD was still listed on Zune.net.

While the Zune HD is still listed and available for purchase (albeit through Walmart.com and out of stock), the Zune support page tells a different story. It clearly states that Microsoft will no longer be producing Zune players and Windows Phone will be the focus of Microsoft's mobile music and video strategy.

Microsoft isn't leaving current Zune owners hanging in the wind. Existing warranties will be honored, devices will continue to work with Zune services, and support sites will stay operational.  Which makes sense seeing that the Zune software is still going strong on the Windows Phone and Xbox Live consoles. 

While Walmart is out of stock, we did find Zune HD units at Amazon.com but BestBuy is only offering refurbs.  So if you want to get your hands on a Zune HD, you better hurry as the device has started it's journey into the sunset.

As we mentioned earlier, the Zune Player was good for what it was but it's time we move on to bigger and better things.

Thanks goes out to Theo and Cori for tipping us on this!

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6

Zune HD apps to be ported to WP7

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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Another week, another leak of Windows Mobile 7.5 ('Mango') features. Once again, the chaps at Windows Phone Dev Podcast have managed to get their hands on some screen shots of reportedly new features coming this fall to Windows Phone. And once again, if true, you won't be disappointed.

  • Windows Live Messenger, Facebook chat and AOL Instant Messenger all integrated under Messaging--and remember, we heard this is rumored to be a dual data/SMS system, making it really reliable even when your connection is not. Your presence as well as your friends are displayed in the People Hub dynamically.
  • Office 365 and Skydrive built into Office hub--'nuff said
  • Group Messaging: currently there are some nice 3rd party apps that do this, but the ability to have pre-defined groups to message to will be now native, allowing to create quick groups for Family, Work, Friends, etc. This will work for Email and SMS.
  • Artist art on Lockscreen: This is very cool, especially those with Zune HD players. What this does is pull down the Zune/Artist artwork of your current selection and plays it in a marquee/banner fashion on the screen. It currently does this on your Zune desktop/Xbox (play some music and wiat a few mins, you'll see). Evidently, in WP7.5, you can do this on your phone, making the Zune HD/Windows Phone distinction even less. This was always an awesome thing on the Zune HD, so we're glad it's being brought over.
  • Games Hub gets a facelift, including 'sync' option (potentially for online-game play). We first reported this back at MIX11, so now it's confirmed.
  • Native Checkins are coming e.g. Facebook Places. More info here.
  • Visual Voicemail will use Open Mobile Terminal Platform (OMTP)
  • Battery saving features/options (under Settings)
  • WiFi Hotspot support, uses Network Communication and Information Systems (NCIS) technology

Not bad, not bad at all. The messaging features should be very popular as well as the other additions coming to Mango--an update that is rapidly turning into a major overhaul of the entire Windows Phone system. We expect to see more, of course, come May 24th in New York City, so make sure you join us for all the live coverage!

Source: Windows Phone Dev Podcast; Thanks, Brianna, for the heads up

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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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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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For the handful of you who are using the Zune HD (myself and Phil are diehard fans), you'll be pleased to know of a few updates to the Zune Marketplace.

For one, Twitter gets a landscape keyboard in v1.2, which makes it that much more useful (or useless, depending on your view). You must enable "keyboard tilt" under the settings in Twitter, it's off by default. Facebook gets bumped to v1.1--not sure what the difference is there and yours truly is MIA on that social network.

In addition, a few new card games including Hearts and Spades, which we suppose look fun (see below).

Load up your the Zune Marketplace to download these freebies.

  

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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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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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2

Visiting Microsoft at CES

 

Unsurprisingly, there wasn't much at Microsoft's CES booth that we hadn't seen before. The HTC HD2 and yesterday's official announcement that it will be available "this spring" on T-Mobile was on the tip of everyone's tongues. But other than that, there were no new Windows phones announced.

We did take a spin with Ford Sync, which is Microsoft's system that will pair just about any device -- Bluetooth or otherwise -- with a new Ford or Mercury vehicle. Voice commands are the key to the whole thing, so you keep your hands on the wheel.

The Zune guys were more than happy to hear that we're hoping to see Zune software integrated into Windows Mobile in the next year or so. But we could get neither them nor the Windows phone folks to spill the beans as to what might or might not be coming in Windows Mobile 7.

Awkward moment of the morning: Our pal Rene Ritchie from The iPhone Blog hits up the Bing team to ask about the Bing iPhone app. And they'd never heard of it.

Photos of the exploits after the break.

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Sometimes you look so hard in the back alleys for leaks on something that you miss it when it's right in front of you.

In this case, lets flash back to October 2009 at the Microsoft San Francisco Dev Camp (we covered it here).  A traveling, nerdy roadshow, the Dev Camp was meant to get developers to attend presentations on programming and working with WM6.5 as well as a chance to meet with and ask questions members of the WinMo development team.

In other words, pretty technical and dry.  Unless some questions on Windows Mobile 7 and prospects of Zune phones get brought up...and answered.

Thanks to forum member Interframe, who watched the nearly 3 hr video, he caught some major gems that we all missed.

For example, at the 2hr mark, we get this exchange:

Q: (roughly translated): "So Steve Ballmer went out and recently said "Windows Mobile 6.1 wasn't what we wanted it to be, neither was 6.5", so with that in mind, when is 7 coming out?"
.....
(The WM7 developer added to what the others from the WM team had to say about the question)
.....
A: "I can give you a little inside information there Mike. I'm not gonna give you anymore than Loke gave you, but I can give you some context. My day job, is working on Windows Mobile 7. I own the calendar feature in fact. I had to try really really hard to convince my manager to let me come down here in San Fransisco and take a day off. All day long, working on 7, staying focused. Its on track (Ed. cough, cough)

The reason its been delayed and you haven't heard much about it is cause we had to go back to the drawing board with our strategy. Change things a little bit to be more competitive when we come out the door, so were not laughed at. We wanna make the same kind of impact the Zune HD made, if you look at Engadget and the blogosphere, people were very impressed with the Zune HD in many ways except for the lack of an app store.

We wanna put out something that we're all proud of, which is competitive on day one, we don't wanna wait any longer."

But there's more. 

  • There won't be an OTA update feature in WM6.5 (which should be obvious at this point) but they are serious about it for WM7
  • Definitely no Zune phone, but they are most certainly aware of trying to emulate that success with their new OS
  • Better graphics support in the OS and for developers too

Read Interframe's word-for-word transcript here and check out the whole video here for yourself.  The video is chock full of little tid-bits and we encourage you folks to watch it from 1hr 58mins and forward for the Q&A.  Either way, next year, when we're all gawking at our WM7 calendar, I want you to think of "blue shirt guy".

(And note, in case that video disappears, we have the whole thing on our HDD ready to be re-posted).

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4

Twitter finally hits Zune HD

The Zune HD (read our reviews here and here) is still not a Windows Mobile phone, no matter how much I wish it to be so. (And no matter how many times I try talking into it.) That said, it desperately has been in need of a Twitter application. Microsoft finally delivered. Sort of.

I'm so distraught over the $@!#^& automatic censoring that's built in (and can't be turned off), I can't even bring myself to review it. (And don't get me started on the settings menu.) The good news is Microsoft reportedly is updating the app to remove the censorship. But, c'mon, guys. That never should have made it out the door.

There is a bit of good news in that Microsoft dropped the ads from its "utility" apps. But it still takes way to long to launch the calculator. Ugh.

Anyhoo, we'll let our pal Matt Miller from ZDNet and NokiaExperts fame do his thing. Thanks for taking one for the team here, Matt. Check out his full rundown at ZDNet, and peep his video after the break.

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2

Free 3D apps now available on Zune HD

The Zune HD [see our full review here] just got a firmware update a few days ago that prepped it for 3D gaming, and now the Zune Marketplace has delivered with a slew of new titles. On tap are:

Audiosurf Tilt: An accelerometer-based roller coaster app that moves with your music.

  • Checkers.
  • Lucky Lanes Bowling.
  • PGR: Ferrari Edition.
  • Vans Sk8 - Pool Service.
  • Piano.

All the games are free and ready for download now. And in case you're wondering, yes, the pre-roll ads are still there. But the apps are still free. Get over it.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in.

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The Zune HD has been given a firmware update, moving it from V4.1 to 4.3. We were not-so-secretly hoping the first update (or second, if you're counting the initial one on launch) would enable a hidden 3D World-band phone inside, Bluetooth and a speakerphone. But that's just us being a little crazy.

Instead, here's the official line, as cribbed from the Zune forums:

Zune HD firmware update: Today we released the v4.3 firmware update for Zune HD players; this update adds support for upcoming 3d games and applications, as well as an auto-suggest feature for better text input, and other minor improvements. Enjoy!

And digging through the forums, we're also seeing:

  • Much-improved Web browsing, both in speed and rendering. You can toggle between desktop and mobile. And there's now a landscape keyboard. (Huzzah)
  • New display settings for video out. You can choose HDMI Auto, 720p or 480p in addition to compositie video.

Get the update by connecting your Zune, then going to Settings>Device>Player Update. And after the break, instructions for those with 16GB Zune HD's who may not be seeing the update

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10

So are Zune features coming or not?

That's one of the bigger questions when it comes to the future of Windows Mobile. Some of us around here *cough* have made it no secret that the software on the Zune HD would fit just fine on a Windows phone. Will that happen?

Let's start with the above video from CNet [via pocketnow] with Ina Fried and Molly Wood interviewing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The talk runs the gamut of Windows 7 to netbooks to tablets to mobile.

"It's all about shipping good product," he says, going on to trumpet Windows Mobile 6.5 (which, after all, was why he was there).

There's more of the party line about Windows Mobile 6.5, but then he gets down to brass tacks.

What is Zune HD? Zune HD is a couple things. Number one, Zune HD is a music player with a nice music service. By the way, the same software will be available on Windows Phones and Windows PCs. You have that today on the PC, you'll see that in our phone environment as well.

But, he adds, "It's not our plan to make a phone out of that (Zune HD) hardware."

Then there's ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, who spoke with Jose Pinero, Director of Communications for Microsoft’s TV, Video and Music Business on Tuesday at Microsoft's Open House in New York City.

“Our next step is mobile phones, but we haven’t talked about a timeline for when that will happen,” he said.

Pinero said Microsoft’s more immediate priorities are to get Zune music and Video services on the Xbox. Microsoft officials said earlier this year that Microsoft plans to make the Zune video marketplace available as part of Xbox Live this fall.

Take that however you want, but if Microsoft does the right thing, we'll see it as a major part of Windows Mobile 7.

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