Tag Archives | Microsoft Zune

Zune HD Gets A Few New Apps

Microsoft may never build another piece of Zune hardware, but Microsoft is still moving forward with software for it, at least. On Wednesday, the company released nine new apps for Zune HD users, which owners can grab by heading  to the Zune Marketplace.

The apps include eight games: Finger Paint, Trash Throw, Slider Puzzle, ColorSpill, Splatter Bug, Vine Climb, Decoder Ring, and Tug-O-War. Microsoft has also released a calendar app. Updates for Email, Echoes, Zune Reader and Penalty! Flick Soccer were also part of the update.

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Microsoft’s Skype Buy Creates Conflict for Rdio [Update]

All Things D’s Peter Kafka picked up on an interesting wrinkle in Microsoft’s Skype acquisition: Subscription-based music service Rdio may be in trouble.

Skype has a $6 million investment in Rdio, thanks to some lawsuit madness involving Skype’s founders and several Silicon Valley players. Kafka said he’s “pretty sure” Skype and Rdio were planning to deepen ties and drum up more users for the music service.

But Microsoft has its own music service, Zune Pass, and it seems unlikely that the company will want to manage a competitor. For now, neither Microsoft nor Rdio are commenting. (UPDATE: See the end of the post for Rdio’s statement.)

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We Know Zune Hardware is Dead. Is the Zune Name Dead Too?

It’s not official until someone at Microsoft says it’s official, but Bloomberg’s Dina Bass is reporting that Microsoft will “cease introducing new versions of the Zune music and video-player amid tepid demand, helping the company shift its focus to mobile phones, according to a person familiar with the decision.”

Cease introducing new Zunes? Actually, that’s not really a breaking development. The last meaningful addition to the Zune line was the Zune HD, released almost exactly eighteen months ago. It was in some ways a nifty device, but like all Zunes before it, it felt like arrived about a year after it should have. Andwith consumer electronics, if you leave a product line fester for a year and a half, you’re telling the world that you’ve lost interest.

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Has Zune Finally Met Its Inevitable Demise?

With Microsoft’s Zune conspicuously absent from the Redmond company’s lovefest with Nokia last week, the Microsofties are abuzz that the company’s answer to Apple’s iPod may be on its way out. Paul Thurrott noted that the company talked about every Microsoft service practically but Zune at the Nokia press conference; Mary Jo Foley chimed in later with a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson which only seemed to raise even more questions.

We’re not ‘killing’ any of the Zune services/features in any way. Microsoft remains committed to providing a great music and video experience from Zune on platforms such as Xbox LIVE, Windows-based PCs, Zune devices and Windows Phone 7, as well as integration with Bing and MSN.

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Needed: A “Zune Touch”

With Windows Phone 7 finally out, what does the future hold for Microsoft’s line of Zune media players? I suspect that very few people outside of Redmond are asking themselves that question right now–and that anybody who does care assumes that the Zune HD will turn out to be the final stand-alone Zune. (Like all the other Zunes before it, the HD suffered from a malady I like to think of as “Gee, this is quite a good product, but it’s in a class of devices that people lost interest in a year ago” syndrome.)

Me, I’m hoping for a new Zune soon–maybe several of them. Hold on, hear me out, I’m serious.

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The Case For a Microsoft Phone

Should Microsoft build a phone of its own? Over at Ars Technica, Peter Bright is arguing that it should. The case is pretty straightforward: The iPhone is as good as it is in large part because Apple designed (in Steve Jobs’ famous words) “the whole widget”–the hardware, the software, and the service. Same thing with the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s best and most successful hardware product to date.

Of course, building the whole widget hasn’t guaranteed Microsoft  anything in the past: The Zune HD hasn’t made much of a dent in the market. (It’s a nicely-designed product, actually–just one that didn’t show up until after the world had moved on to new classes of devices.) And the Kin–the closest thing to a “Microsoft phone” so far–didn’t quite work out. (Bright, oddly, doesn’t mention the Kin.)

I think there’s a good chance that Microsoft will build a “Microsoft phone” at some point, simply because the temptation may prove irresistible. But that doesn’t mean that putting Windows Phone 7 on different handsets from multiple manufacturers is an idea that’s doomed to fail. After all, it’s similar to what Google is doing with Android–and while the Android rollout isn’t without its bumps, it seems to be going pretty well.

Microsoft’s real danger with Windows Phone 7 isn’t that the basic business model doesn’t make sense. It’s closer to the overarching issue that rendered the Zune irrelevant: It’s possible that a phone OS that ships in late 2010 without cut-and-paste, multitasking, and other features which are universally available on competitors may be too little, too late. Even if the OS is appealing in other respects (and from what I’ve seen of Windows Phone 7 so far, it’s thoughtfully done and potentially neat).

Your take?


Zune HD Goes 64GB. Briefly

Was that a 64GB Zune HD Microsoft was touting? Why yes, yes, it was.

(Thinking about the Zune HD reminds me to wonder: What’s its future, especially with the similar Windows Phone 7 Series in the offing? You gotta think that maybe Microsoft will release a Zune that’s very much like a Windows Phone 7 handset but without the phone part, thereby extending the platform in an iPod Touch-like manner…)


Clues Point to a Microsoft Zune Phone

Technologist Long Zheng’s watchful eye caught a clue that points to the likely existence of an upcoming Zune phone, according to blog post he published today.

A Zune software update (version includes a USB device driver package that reference hardware IDs for an as of yet unknown Microsoft Zune product. Zheng noted that USB body regulations forbid vendors from masking devices IDs, so the device must be from Microsoft. There are three variants of the ID that may point to different models, he added.

There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Microsoft will make its own device. I was in the “yes” camp over a year ago, because I believe that Microsoft will attempt to maintain parity with Apple’s product mix. It acquired Sidekick creator Danger Inc., and tasked executive Roz Ho (former head of its Mac business unit) to absorb Danger into its Entertainment and Devices division.

It’s true that Microsoft’s Windows Mobile business model has been reliant on third parties, but that model hasn’t given the platform much wind in its sails as evidenced by the OS’s sinking market share. However, it isn’t exactly backing off from supporting its IHV partners. It’s also sticking to its story that it has no immediate plans to build a Zune phone.

Last year, it was reported that Microsoft was giving devices makers reference designs to use to build their own next generation Windows Mobile devices. It is also working on Zune-branded services, code-named “Pink,” “Skybox,” and “SkyMart,” to standardize the user experience across devices.

My bet is that Microsoft is in the mobile device market for the long haul. The fact that Apple is now selling a substantial number of connected devices, which contributes solidly to its bottom line, is not escaping Microsoft. It will try many things.

The company realizes that people are accessing information and services from a growing number of devices, and has technology planned to accommodate that change both in the short (Silverlight) and long term (Midori OS).

We are going to have to wait and see what Microsoft is doing; it’s a big company that has a lot of coals in the fire. Keep a close eye out on Mobile World Congress next month.

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Microsoft Zune HD: The Technologizer Review

Zune HDWhy have Microsoft’s Zune media players failed to make even the tiniest of dents in the iPod’s market dominance? There are multiple reasons, but one stands out: They’ve been stuck in a hopeless game of catch-up, and they’re always way, way behind.

The original Zune was a hard disk player that debuted in 2006–right when Apple’s flash-based iPod Nano was becoming the world’s best-selling MP3 player. In 2007, Microsoft announced Nano-like Zunes that used flash storage–a couple of months after Apple shipped the sexier touch-screen iPod Touch. And now Microsoft is releasing the Zune HD, a touch-screen model, but one without the awesome power of the iPhone/iPod Touch App Store. To riff on the famous Wayne Gretzky quote, Microsoft is like a hockey player who keeps skating to where the puck was…not to where it is right now, and certainly not to where it will be.

But wait. The Zune HD may be a mere media player, but it’s anything but a retread. It packs worthwhile technologies that no iPod does, such as an OLED screen and HD output. It’s very much its own device in terms of industrial design and user interface, both of which are nicely done. In short, the Zune HD is cool in ways that no previous Zune has been. And even though the HD has its share of imperfections and limitations, it’s easy to imagine some folks preferring it to any media player that hails from Cupertino.

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