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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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Whatever Microsoft is up to, they are sure up to something big.

Long Zheng (iStartedSomething) has taken a look-see at the update Zune desktop software, which just came out today.

Going through the .inf file (responsible for identifying the driver, associating the device with USB) he was able to find a few lines of code that, for the first time, specifically reference a phone.

In fact, there are three hardware Product IDs associated with the 'phone' class in addition the the three current Zune players (see above image).

Zheng also contemplates whether this is just part of a larger integration with Windows Mobile and his tentative conclusion is 'no' stating 

Whilst it is possible there might be system-wide Zune integration into Windows Mobile 7, this particular driver references specific hardware IDs that are locked to a vendor (Microsoft) and product which under USB body regulations cannot be masked, thus this has to be Microsoft devices. 

That's right folks, it looks like we are looking a three-pronged strategy from Microsoft:

The big question is what is the Zune phone built on?  We wouldn't be surprised if it's not WinCE based but something different, putting it outside the class of Windows Mobile devices.  

Does this lend more credence to the idea that the 'Zune phone' is targeted towards the younger crowd and will be released within the next two months as one analyst has claimed?  Maybe the "Project Pink is DOA" story was Microsoft doing its own spinning? Like we've said, next month will be real interesting and we'll be there to cover it...

[via iStartedSomething]

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Funny how on the last past podcast we were just lamenting the XBox Live's "point system" for purchasing games, videos, services, etc.  It was hardly transparent, made you do conversions and came across ... well ... as slightly dishonest.

How we pay for things in XBox is relevant for Windows phone users because, make no mistake, XBox and Zune integration are coming down the pike in addition to our Marketplace.  How we pay for those services across our "three screens" will be quite relevant to the success or failure of such an ecosystem, if we can be so bold.

Luckily, Microsoft has evidently heard the cacophony of complaints regarding this system and appears to be at least re-evaluating the process.  Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg said in a recent interview:

We never intended to ever mislead people. I think we want to be transparent about it, and so it is something that we're looking at. How can we be more transparent and let people see it in actual dollars?

Well, perhaps they won't be ditching the points system, but at least they are considering improving it.  

Microsoft, do us a favor: just ditch the points and go with dollars.  Things are complicated enough already, and there is NO benefit for the consumer with the points system.  Not a single one.

[via Gizmodo]

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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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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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MSFT Kitchen has once again done all the dirty work by shifting through LinkedIn profiles to find little cherries of information on Windows Mobile 7.  Check out the last summary of such an adventure.

Nothing too extraordinary though we do see that, as we've said in previous podcasts, Silverlight will play a major role on the device.

Other tidbits:

Read all the nerdy details at MSFT Kitchen.

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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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By now it's hardly a secret that we're expecting some sort of Zune integration in Windows Mobile 7. Microsoft has been fairly coy about it, though nobody's really been buying that.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (that's him on the right) dropped word today during The Engadget Show that Zune will be coming to the next version of Windows Mobile.

For Zune he says Windows Mobile is going to get integration in the next release -- which is a comforting thought, if perhaps a bit late.

So there you have it. Good riddance, Windows Media Player.

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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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Hands-on with the Zune HD (Part 2)

We're now a few days into the Zune HD (read Part 1 here) and we're more sure of this than ever: It is not gunning for the iPod Touch. It is not a PDA. It is not a smartphone with the radio yanked out.

It is, however, a kick-arse MP3 player, with potential on the software side for much more.

Watch our brief hands-on video above, and join us after the break for a look at what Microsoft got right, and what leaves us wanting.

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It hasn't been a big secret that Microsoft has been trying to woo iPhone developers to its own platforms. We've already seen them doing so with Windows Mobile. Now we're seeing it happen with the Zune HD.

But just how easy is it to port an app? Try 12 hours, as seen with Wordmonger in the video above.

Written in C# with OpenGL for the iPhone and ported with XNA Game Studio 3.1 for the Zune HD, the video above shows Wordmonger running on both devices. Of course, one major drawback to the Zune HD is a that it doesn't have a speaker, which is a big turn-off if you don't want to wear headphones for casual gaming. (Count me in that crowd.) Look for Wordmonger on the iPhone by Thanksgiving. No word on an actual Zune launch.

But either way, this is a sure sign that the Zune HD can and will run third-party apps — just as soon as Microsoft allows.

Redmond Pie [via TiPB - thanks, Taimur!]

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Hands-on with the Zune HD (Part 1)

So I'm a few hours into the Zune HD. It's my first foray into the Zune ecosystem, so I have a bit of a learning curve, and bear with me. But without giving away the farm, I'll say this: If this is the direction in which Windows Mobile is moving, we all have much to look forward to. There are going to be endless comparisons of the Zune HD to the iPhone and iPod Touch, and we'll certainly add our share. But, for now, it all comes down to this:

The Zune HD and iPhone/iPod Touch are different devices, with different purposes.

Anyhoo, that's not really why we're here. We want to look at the Zune HD from the Windows Mobile perspective and see what bits and pieces we might see in Windows Mobile 7 and beyond. Join us after the break for our initial hands-on and a very quick look at the new desktop software.

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Today's the day, folks. The Zune HD has been released. A new interface, strong hardware and high expectations. Oh, and the strong assumption that we'll see a strong Zune UI influence in Windows Mobile 7. (We're already seeing some in WinMo 6.5, namely in the home-screen interface.)

For our part, we'll take a look at the Zune HD and see what's what. Anything you want to see in particular? Let us know in the comments.

Oh, and I'll be joining the boys and girls on iPhone Live at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday, where we'll give the Zune HD and iPod Touch the what-for. Be sure to get a seat the chat room early; we're expecting sparks to fly.

Are you getting a Zune HD?(survey software)
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