Category Archives: 628

Microsoft Connects the Dots with Zune HD, Zune Marketplace, and Xbox

This week Microsoft took the wraps off the next Zune, dubbed
Zune HD
.  It seems to be your basic next-generation touch screen only
media player with the common additions of WiFi and an web browser (IE based). 
There are some other interesting parts such as a HD Radio tuner, an OLED
screen, multitouch, and even HD output at 720p via a dock.

The most interesting part of the announcement is not the
device, but rather the service.  The Zune Marketplace will now integrate
with the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, finally drawing a realistic picture of
Microsoft’s “3 screen” vision of the future. Getting the most press is the HD Radio tuner, the non-HD
resolution of the OLED screen, and the concept of Microsoft competing with the
iPod touch.

HD Radio tuner doesn’t do much for me, it will give people a
chance to explore something they likely have never heard of before, and
apparently the FM radio tuner has been a big selling point among existing Zune
buyers.  The resolution on the OLED screen is only 480×272, which many
have noted is not even close to HD.  I’m not really sure why people think
they need 1080p on a portable player, the lower resolution screen likely
benefits the majority of people who put low-bitrate and resolution content on
the device in the first place.  If you have HD content, the dock now
outputs 720p over HDMI.  The big question
in terms of resolution is actually what codec’s and resolutions it supports
syncing.  If it supports all popular
codecs and HD resolutions, that means I can sync without transcoding.

I have never seen the Zune as a good competitor to the iPod,
I don’t feel much different about this one.  Microsoft is still playing
catch-up here by connecting their services.  This is something Apple has
mostly had for years.  Within the next 2-3 years I can finally see the
landscape start to change a bit, but Microsoft is going to have a very hard
time going after Apple when you compare numbers.

Lacking is any mention of Media Center, which wasn’t a shock
to me personally.  I firmly believe Microsoft has moved on from what most
reading this wanted Media Center to be, and of course for years I’ve said the
Xbox was the real competition to Media Center (this will become much clearer as
we go on).  Connecting the Xbox, Zune, and Windows finally makes all of
the products marketable.  Microsoft also
just announced that Xbox
360 has sold 30 million units and has 20 million on Xbox LIVE
.

A few have noted that all the details have not been released
and that Media Center integration could still be there.  I don’t
anticipate it, but would welcome it.  I doubt we will see this act as a
Media Center Extender as many have wanted.  If Microsoft could of improved
anywhere in the Zune-Media Center connection I hope it was with syncing
content, mainly TV.  The Zune does support syncing TV, but it doesn’t
support anything copy protected (CableCARD, likely any future premium Cable/Sat
services), and also doesn’t support syncing content with Dolby Digital audio. 
If this stays true just about the only TV content the Zune can sync (in the US)
will be analog cable/satellite captures.  Even OTA content will be purely
Dolby Digital next months, so even your favorite local channels will not sync
unless Microsoft decides to change.

Microsoft Announces the Expansion of the Zune Entertainment Service to New Platform and Markets; Confirms New Zune HD Portable Media Player

Premium Zune digital entertainment service to be available
internationally on Xbox LIVE.

REDMOND, Wash. — May 26, 2009 — Microsoft Corp. today
announced the evolution of Zune, the company’s end-to-end music and
entertainment service, to a new platform and new markets. Zune will extend its
video service to Xbox LIVE internationally this fall. This marks an important
development in the Zune strategy and brings the Zune brand to more than 17
million international Xbox LIVE subscribers. In addition, Microsoft confirmed
the next generation of the Zune portable media player, Zune HD. Available in the
U.S. this fall, Zune HD is the first portable media player that combines a
built-in HD Radio receiver, high-definition (HD) video output capabilities,
organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touch screen, Wi-Fi and an Internet
browser.

“The Zune music player is an integral part of the overall
Zune experience, and we’re proud to be growing and extending our offering
beyond the device,” said Enrique Rodriguez, corporate vice president of the
Microsoft TV, Video and Music Business Group. “Delivering on Microsoft’s
connected entertainment vision, this news marks a turning point for Zune as it
brings cross-platform experiences and premium video content to living rooms
around the world.”

Zune Service Expands to New Platform

Zune will be a premium partner in the Xbox LIVE Video
Marketplace, bringing an exciting catalog of TV and film to the platform. Zune
will occupy the first slot within the Xbox user interface in the Xbox LIVE
Video Marketplace, exposing the Zune brand experience to millions of new
consumers for the first time. At the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) next
week, attendees will see firsthand how Zune integrates into Xbox LIVE to create
a game-changing entertainment experience.

Introducing Zune HD

  • Zune HD is the next iteration of the Zune device family and
    brings a new level of listening and viewing experiences to the portable media
    player category.
  • Zune HD comes with a built-in HD Radio receiver so users can
    listen to higher-quality sound than traditional radio on the go. Users also
    will have access to the additional song and artist data broadcast by HD Radio
    stations as well as additional channels from their favorite stations
    multicasting in HD. If you don’t like the song playing on your station’s HD
    channel, switch to its HD2 or HD3 channels for additional programming.
  • The bright OLED touch screen interface allows users to flip
    through music, movies and other content with ease, and the 16:9 widescreen
    format display (480×272 resolution) offers a premium viewing experience on the
    go.
  • The HD-compatible output lets Zune HD customers playback
    supported HD video files from the device through a premium high-definition
    multimedia interface (HDMI) audiovisual docking station (sold separately)
    direct to an HD TV in 720p.*
  • Zune HD will include a full-screen Internet browser optimized
    for multitouch functionality.
  • Zune HD is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing for instant streaming to
    the device from the more than 5 million-track Zune music store.

Windows Mobile Gets Netflix Queue Updating Software

Developing…

“This month, Microsoft and Netflix, the world’s largest online movie
rental service, will offer software that enables Windows Mobile
customers to update and view their Netflix movie queue. Changes will
appear instantly on Netflix on Xbox LIVE, extending the existing
service that launched in November. Xbox 360 is the only game system
that lets people instantly watch thousands of movies and TV episodes
streamed from Netflix, many in HD.”

Microsoft Announces New Zune Pass Music Subscription Model

Consumers can now keep the tracks they love.

REDMOND, Wash. — Nov. 19, 2008 — Zune, Microsoft
Corp.’s digital music and entertainment service, today announced landmark
agreements with major and independent music labels to bring significant new
value to the subscription music model. The Zune Pass subscription service
currently gives consumers on-demand access to millions of tracks for $14.99 per
month. Starting today subscribers will also get to select 10 tracks per month
to keep and add them to their permanent collection (an estimated $10 value).

Agreements have been signed between Microsoft and EMI Music,
Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group (UMG) and Warner Music
Group, as well as independent distributors INgrooves, Independent Online
Distribution Alliance and The Orchard. The Orchard delivers digital music,
video and brand services globally, and represents labels including Barsuk
Records (Nada Surf) and Fania Records (Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz). IODA
represents labels including Arts & Crafts (Broken Social Scene, The Stills)
and Ghostly International (Matthew Dear, School of Seven Bells). The new
enhanced subscription model came about as a result of close collaboration with
all of these companies.

Zune Pass subscribers will have the added benefit of
retaining digital rights management (DRM)-free MP3 tracks from Sony BMG and
UMG, in addition to MP3 tracks from EMI Music, Warner Music Group and a large
portion of the independent music labels. With the addition of tracks from UMG
and Sony BMG, Zune will soon offer over 90 percent of its music in the MP3
format.

“The way people consume music has changed. With the shift to
digital from CDs, it is more challenging than ever to offer the right mix of
deep content, music discovery and economic value,” said Chris Stephenson,
general manager of global marketing for Zune at Microsoft. “People want the freedom
to listen to whatever they want across millions of songs, combined with the
confidence that they can keep their favorite tracks forever.”

From its inception, Zune has bet on the power of
subscription, not only as a consumption model but also as a way to highlight
the music discovery features central to the Zune experience and the PC
platform. The Zune service gives consumers convenient and unlimited access to
the music they want, and also connects them to other music fans and expert
sources to help them find the music they will love. The new enhancements to the
Zune Pass subscription service offer unprecedented value for all music fans.

Read
Full Press Release

Short Bits: Zune Mobile, Home Servers, TV Pack, More

Remember when I said you would hear more
about Zune on mobile phones before the years end
?  Well, now you
have
.  “Zune software will also be ported to and be more important not just
with the hardware but on the PC, on Windows Mobile devices, etc.,”
said
Steve Ballmer.

Missing Remote has had a few great articles over the past few
weeks including a Battle
of the Windows Home Server Systems
and a letter to Microsoft about what
is going on with Media Center
.  The
article ends with a note to Microsoft asking for them to “go back to the drawing board and re-think the Media Center product:
its future as a product, the viability of the strategy of having
it tossed into random Windows versions, and goals for
the technologies that make up Windows Media Center.”

Last month Ed Bott wrote the best article ever on the
Media Center platform
.  He covered
several issues but mainly focused on the TV Pack and all of the issues that
happened behind the scenes.  I didn’t get
to post about it when he first published it, but I have to get it out there
because Ed really did a fantastic
job with the article.

PC Mag has an “unofficial” Guide
to the TV Pack
including installation instructions just in case you happen
to find it online somewhere.

I’ll be a guest on The Media Center Show before year’s end,
but that shouldn’t stop you from waiting until then to listen to Ian’s other weekly
podcasts.  Hear about Open
Media Library (OML) from David Shulitz
and CEA
Mark Of Excellence Awards
with Roland Graham.

Short Bits: Zune WTV Sync, WTV Documentation

Media Center users that own Zune’s can see several places
where Microsoft forgot to think things through. 
Those with the TV Pack installed have a few more, including the fact
that Zune 2.0 software can’t do anything with WTV files.  That has now
changed with Zune 3.0 software where WTV syncing officially work
.

Speaking of WTV, Microsoft has finally published
some documentation on the format
.  The
document covers handling WTV files with DirectShow (that includes transcoding).
(Via The Green
Button
).

Zune Brings Powerful New Entertainment Features to Every Zune Portable Media Player With Software Release

Internet access
provider Wayport enables wireless music downloads for Zune customers in Wi-Fi
hot spots at more than 9,800 McDonald’s restaurants.

REDMOND, Wash. —
Sept. 16, 2008 —
Zune, Microsoft Corp.’s end-to-end music and entertainment
service, today released its much anticipated free software update that will
bring new features to every Zune portable media player. Revealed last week, the
new software will allow Zune users to wirelessly stream and download music from
the Zune Marketplace store on the go; tag and purchase songs directly from the
built-in FM radio; and tap into new, personalized music recommendations and
programming. To allow customers to take full advantage of the new wireless
functionality, Zune today announced that it is working with high-speed Internet
access provider Wayport Inc. to deliver Zune users free, wireless access to the
Zune Marketplace from more than 9,800 participating McDonald’s®restaurants
across the U.S.

“Wayport is pleased to be working with Microsoft to make it
easier for Zune users to access music on the go,” said Dan Lowden, vice
president of business development and marketing for Wayport. “Our ability to
enable and manage applications and devices over converged networks creates
exciting new opportunities for our clients to attract new customers whose
digital lifestyle extends beyond their home and office.”

More Colors and
Custom Designs

Zune Originals, the online store designed to let consumers
customize their Zune player with laser-engraved art and personal text, now also
offers exclusive color combinations. In addition to the recently announced Zune
16 and Zune 120 available in black at retailers nationwide, Zune Originals (http://www.zuneoriginals.net) also will
offer the Zune 16 in blue, red, pink and green as an online exclusive. In
addition, Zune Originals is refreshing its collection of custom artwork with 14
eye-catching new designs from artists such as Rolito, MWM (Matt W. Moore),
Ippei Gyoubu and Aya Kato to give consumers more options to personalize their
Zune experience.

The Digital Content
Consumers Want

In addition to launching Zune Channels, which push new music
to subscribers’ collections each week, and personalized music recommendations,
Zune Marketplace also offers editorial features such as the Zune School Music
Masters Program and the Xbox Gamer Central pages, as well as Instant
Collections playlists to help consumers explore specific themes and genres.
Zune Marketplace now offers more than 4 million songs, 80 percent of which are
available as digital rights management (DRM)-free MP3s; 8,500 music videos;
3,000 episodes of popular TV shows; and more than 6,000 audio and video
podcasts.

Zune customers have a choice in how they acquire music —
they can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription. Zune Pass
subscribers can download or stream music from their Zune or computer
interchangeably, all for a flat rate of $14.99 (U.S.) per month. To give people
a chance to experience Zune Pass subscription, Zune is offering a free, 14-day
trial to all new customers. More information is available at http://www.zune.net/setup.

Zune also now supports audiobook content from leading
distributors including Audible Inc. Zune users can now explore more than 50,000
books, magazines and newspapers from more than 600 publishers and content
providers at audible.com and sync it to their Zune. To commemorate the addition
of audiobooks, Audible is offering all new and existing Zune owners a free copy
of “Black River” by bestselling writer Dean Koontz.

New Software and
Firmware

The Zune PC software is a free download that provides rich
discovery and media management capabilities to help consumers make the most of
their existing music collections in addition to providing access to the Zune
Social and Zune Marketplace so they can add to it. To experience new features
such as Buy from FM, wireless music downloads, Zune Channels, Picks personal
recommendations, games and more, the new Zune PC software and device firmware
are available for free download at http://www.zune.net.

Estimated retail pricing for the Zune device is as follows:

  • 120 GB: $249.99 (U.S.)
  • 80 GB: $229.99 (U.S.)1
  • 16 GB: $199.00 (U.S.)
  • 8 GB: $149.99 (U.S.)
  • 4 GB: $129.99 (U.S.)1

More information on Zune and related images is available at http://www.zune.net/press.

About Zune

Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand that
provides an integrated digital entertainment experience. The Zune platform
includes a line of portable digital media players, elegant software, the Zune
Marketplace online store, the Zune Social online music community created to
help people discover music, and the ZuneOriginals.net online media player customization
store. Zune is part of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division and
supports the company’s software-based services vision to help drive innovation
in the digital entertainment space. More information can be found online at http://www.zune.net/en-us/press.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide
leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses
realize their full potential.

1 A limited number of 80GB and 4GB devices remain in the
channel, and those remaining will be available at this price.

Zune Takes Music Discovery to the Next Level With New Ways to Find and Access Digital Music

Software update will
enable Zune users to tag songs and buy music directly from FM radio and
download and stream music on the go beginning Sept. 16.

REDMOND, Wash. —
Sept. 8, 2008 —
Zune, Microsoft Corp.’s end-to-end music and entertainment
service, again revolutionizes how customers discover and connect to the music
they love, where and how they want it. Starting next week, every Zune portable
media player will let consumers wirelessly download or stream millions of songs
on the go from thousands of wireless hot spots around the country. Free,
powerful software and firmware updates will give Zune owners the ability to
discover, tag and purchase songs directly from the built-in FM radio,
wirelessly access the Zune Marketplace store on the go, and tap into
interactive, personalized music recommendations that add even more value to the
Zune Pass subscription. Zune is also expanding its device lineup with new 16GB
and 120GB capacities as well as shiny new blue-on-silver and sleek all-black
color schemes. The new features will begin rolling out on Sept. 16, 2008.

“Digital music services really come alive when they help
people find not only the music they know they like, but the music they didn’t
know they would love,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of Global
Marketing for Zune at Microsoft. “With the combination of subscription,
wireless access to millions of tracks, and powerful discovery features like
personal recommendations and the ability to buy music from FM radio, Zune is
taking the digital music experience to the next level.”

Wireless Connections

More than 61 percent of people say they discover new music
by listening to the radio. (1) With that in mind, Zune is taking advantage of
the wireless connection and the built-in FM tuner to deliver a new feature
called Buy from FM, which lets customers tag and purchase songs they hear on FM
radio stations (2) directly from the Zune device. When the customer is in a
Wi-Fi hot spot, the song can be immediately downloaded to the Zune device. If
Wi-Fi is not available, the device will have a queue of songs ready to download
when connected to a home computer or in a hot spot. Buy from FM uses Radio Data
System and RT+ data feeds within the FM broadcast frequencies that identify
song and artist data and enable the Zune service to identify and deliver the
track to the customer.

In addition, users can now access the Zune Marketplace music
store directly from their device when they are in a recognized Wi-Fi hot spot,
or through a home wireless network. To make it easy to discover music on the
go, customers can browse lists of featured new releases and top songs and
albums sorted by genre, or use the on-screen keypad to type in the song of
their choice. Once they have picked a track or album, they can either download
it or stream it directly to the Zune device.

Zune customers have a choice in how they acquire music: They
can pay per track or choose a Zune Pass subscription. Zune Pass subscribers can
download or stream music to the device or their computer interchangeably, all
for a flat rate of $14.99 per month. So whether a device has 4 GB or 120 GB of
storage, Zune Pass customers can access and stream millions of songs directly
to their Zune.

More Ways to Discover
Music: Channels and Picks

The new Zune software update taps expert sources,
recommendations from the Zune service and online music community, and the
user’s own play data to create a dynamic, digital music experience where
discovering music is easy and seamless.

  • Channels. Channels are an exciting new tool for music
    discovery. Customers can explore channels programmed by experts from the music
    industry such as the Billboard Top 100, The FADER magazine and KEXP radio, in
    addition to workout-themed channels tailored for high, medium and low impact,
    and top chart channels from all genres and subgenres. The powerful Zune
    software will even create custom channels for each user, based on favorite
    artists and genres. Channels are included with a monthly Zune Pass subscription
    and can be synced to the device for playback on the go. For non-Zune Pass
    subscribers, the Channels are available for a la carte purchase.
  • Personal Picks. Now the Zune software learns what kind of
    music users like and makes personal recommendations. When users log onto Zune
    Marketplace, they’ll find a new area called Picks where the Zune recommendation
    algorithm will suggest artists, albums and tracks based on the music they have
    been listening to, as well as channels they might like and listeners like them
    in the Zune Social.
  • The Zune Social online music community. Customers can
    connect with millions of like-minded fans and share music via the Zune Card, a
    real-time playlist of each user’s favorite and recently played tracks that can
    be accessed on the Web or within the Zune software, or synced to the Zune
    device. Zune Pass subscribers can play full tracks from Zune Cards synced to
    their device while on the go, and now the playlists will even automatically
    update with the most recently played tracks when Zune connects to a wireless
    hot spot. It’s like subscribing to a free feed of music from the sources people
    trust most — their friends.

Powerful Software

The Zune PC software is a free download at
http://www.zune.net that provides rich discovery and media management
capabilities to help consumers make the most of their existing music
collections, in addition to providing access to the Zune Social and Zune Marketplace
so they can add to it.

  • Mixview. Customers can select an artist, album or Zune Card
    to activate a dynamic, visual mosaic of related music and listeners. With each
    click users can take the view in a new direction, creating a fun, graphical way
    to discover new music. Mixview works with users’ current collection of music,
    in addition to tracks and albums from across the Zune Marketplace.
  • Now Playing. The improved Now Playing view is more
    interactive and cinematic. Users can sit back and enjoy the combination of
    great artist imagery, colorful effects, bio information and data from the Zune
    online music community, all combined in a full-screen view. They can also click
    to dive deeper into the music behind the picture, providing another great way
    to interact with their collection.

A new firmware update will also improve the experience on
the Zune device. In addition to the new wireless functionality, Zune will bring
new features customers have been asking for:

  • Games on the go. Two free games, “Hexic” and “Texas Hold
    ’Em,” will keep users entertained on the go.
  • Audiobooks. All Zune devices will feature support for
    audiobooks this fall from industry leaders in the digital distribution of
    audiobook content.
  • Audible. Customers can visit audible.com to download and
    sync favorite books from the 50,000 titles available from over 600 publishers
    and content providers.
  • OverDrive. They can download content from sites powered by
    overdrive.com, including 7,500 libraries’ Web sites worldwide. (http://search.overdrive.com)

Device Pricing
Information Effective Sept. 16

120 GB: $249.99

80 GB: $229.99 (3)

16 GB: $199.00

8 GB: $149.99

4 GB: $129.99 (3)

More information on Zune and related images is available at
http://www.zune.net/press.

About Zune

Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand that
provides an integrated digital entertainment experience. The Zune platform
includes a line of portable digital media players, elegant software, the Zune
Marketplace online store, and the Zune Social online music community, created
to help people discover music. Zune is part of Microsoft’s Entertainment and
Devices Division and supports the company’s software-based services vision to
help drive innovation in the digital entertainment space. More information can
be found online at http://www.zune.net/en-us/press.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide
leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses
realize their full potential.

(1) According to a Kelton Research study sponsored by Zune
(April 2008)

(2) The song needs to be available in Zune Marketplace for
consumers to purchase it. If it is not available, but the radio station is
broadcasting the song’s meta data, consumers can tag the song (so they can
remember the name and artist), but will not be able to purchase it.

(3) There are a limited number of 80GB and 4GB devices
remaining in the channel, and those that are will be available at this price.

Bach Says No to Blu-ray in Xbox 720, First Party ZunePhone

We don’t even have to wait until tomorrow to find out that
the Xbox
360 isn’t getting Blu-ray
.  Why?  Because
Robbie Bach was asked if Microsoft had plans for Blu-ray to appear in the next generation Xbox
(Via
Engadget) and answered “No. There is nothing to even talk about right now with regard to the
next generation.
That is so far out that there isn’t anything to talk
about.”
  Now I’m sure some of you will
tell me that he didn’t deny Xbox 360 with Blu-ray and instead just talked about
the next generation, but trust me Blu-ray is not coming to the Xbox 360 tomorrow or anytime
soon.  He also touches on Xbox 360
lasting longer than the previous Xbox as I also
talked about
today.

Robbie also went on record again saying the ZunePhone (eg. first
party hardware) isn’t happening, but does suggest that a Phone+Zune
software
might be on the way as I suggested a few months ago.  I can
actually say it will be happening and that I know Microsoft is currently trying
to get OEMs on board.  The Zune software
(or a variation of it) will appear on several different OEMs handsets.
  Not sure if it will just be Windows Mobile,
but I’d love to see them open it up to other platforms.

Lastly on the mobile side, Bach said We don’t make phones ourselves. We don’t have any
plans to make phones ourselves”
which I thought
was interesting considering Microsoft now owns Danger.  Danger isn’t a hardware company per-say, but
I guess it can shine a bit of light on what Microsoft isn’t planning to do with
their new acquisition.

Short Bits: Digital Copy, tru2way, Big Media

Remember just last month when I said “I’d like
to see companies embrace the fact that DVD is still the mainstream format?”
  Based on a story in CED from this past week
studios are starting to realize that’s the key, with one Warner exec saying “….64 percent of
consumers said having a digital file gives better value.” 
This story was
about including protected digital copies of films on DVDs
(Example) which I think is a great idea and needs to happen much more often (on all DVDs). 
Now let’s also see it work the opposite way too, if I buy a digital download
allow me to get the physical DVD at a discounted price (or free? Yeah right)

I know I haven’t covered tru2way much yet, but that’s
because there isn’t much to say. 
Quickly, tru2way is CableLabs basically renaming the CableCARD 2.0/OCAP platform.  Of course a large majority of the media
doesn’t understand any part of it; CNET even asked if tru2way can succeed
where CableCARD failed
.  Just so we
are clear, tru2way is a platform for CableCARDs.  It’s now a two-way platform instead of
one-way like all previous devices.  It
will require use of the exact same CableCARDs (which are
all two-way
).  MegaZone
did a good job explaining it
, yet CNET didn’t retract the article or edit
it despite the fact it is 100% incorrect. 
Two-way CableCARD for Media Center isn’t
likely to appear until Windows 7
.

Speaking of CNET (now owned by CBS), anyone else find it
ironic that big media conglomerates have purchased these smaller outlets which still
post on things like breaking copy
protection on DVDs
?  Hey CBS, if your
new media outlets are going to report on breaking copy protection, let’s just
skip the formalities and disable things like CGMS-A on Showtime, AACS on CBS
Blu-ray Discs, CSS on DVDs, etc.