Basically, it looks like a good version of the Portable Media Center UI. It is far flashier, better graphically than the iPod UI, which is strange. See, one thing Apple forgot was that with their Macs, the computer is clean and simple, but the operating system is beautiful and shiny. Instead, with the iPod, they made everything clean and simple, and they let Microsoft embaress them with a nicer (not necessarily better) UI.
I guarantee the supposed “true” video iPod, the one rumored for early next year, comes with a more graphical UI.
By the by, viewing videos by turning the player is the way to go. It just looks wonderful.
This is a perfect period of stable market share. An event needs to happen to destabilize the numbers, and Microsoft is banking on Windows Live Search’s launch to do it. These are the numbers to revisit in the months ahead.
Engadget has a long and good interview with J Allard, the man behind the Zune, about his ideas for the Zune platform. Go read the interview, but I will talk about the most exciting aspect of the interview: The Zune wifi platform beyond the Zune.
You guys know all too well 802.11 devices there are out there. Think about what else we can connect to. Think about all the other scenarios we could do, whether location-based, etc. The device itself is intended to be a future-proof platform that’s part of this connected entertainment world where entertainment will become more personal, more interactive, and more engaged with community.
Microsoft is looking at the idea of creating this wild atmosphere with people sharing music with others nearby. If you think that it’ll never work, go to any college campus and load up iTunes, and tell me how many people are sharing their music libraries. Microsoft seems to be looking at the ability to share your music as the killer feature that Apple should have implemented. Hopefully for them, Apple will not try to steal the feature for at least a few years.
Think about this: Where do you find new music? Previously, you found music by listening to the radio, where occasionally they’d play a new song, which might catch on. Now, fewer people are listening to the radio (which is anyways playing far less new music), and as a result, older songs are becoming in many ways more popular than newer songs. Think about it: If you had an unlimited music subscription, all you’d do is go back and download all your favorite songs of all-time.
The Zune aims to bring new music back to the forefront. If anyone you know finds a cool new song, they can send it to you, for free for a limited time, and you can find out how cool it is. No sitting around, listening privately to music; now you can find new music without going to your computer. Allard hints that they might update the system next year to let PCs share with Zunes, further increasing the number of people in this wifi music network.
Here’s the one thing that’ll shoot this through the stratosphere: Microsoft needs to make all the music free, temporarily, randomly. Think about it: Ever Zune account should get access to 100 songs that have 3-day passes, and those songs should change randomly every 24 hours. Zune users could have the 100 songs dropped on their Zune’s every day automatically, and then hit to play random music to discover new stuff. Think of it as the next generation of shuffle.
If Microsoft makes discovering new music completely free and random, users will listen to a hell of a lot more music than they used to. All of a sudden, at any time, there’d be 300 new songs on your Zune (100 a day), songs you’d never heard, and some of them would be awesome. At the end of the three-day period, you’d have to buy the song to keep it. How many people would buy? A hell of a lot more than buy from iTunes (per iPod).
The Zune is about discovery. The iPod is about storage. If Microsoft makes the discovery perfect, they could actually win. My head is spinning about possibilities.
What about a billboard for a new CD that actually dropped the CD on any Zune that walked by? Eliminates street teams, that’s for sure!
What if a band is holding a concert, and sets up a Zune at the exit, broadcasting their entire music collection on wifi? As people left the concert, they’d have every song from the band on their player, for free, for three days. Want to bet that at the end of those three days, a lot of people who went to the concert will buy the songs off Zune Marketplace?
Damn, J, you might have something here! I’m going nuts with ideas. God, I hope they pull this off.
Zune is a 30-gigabyte digital media player. It features wireless technology, a built-in FM tuner and a 3-inch screen that works both in portrait and lanscape (that means you can rotate it to view it however you want). It shows off music, video and pictures. It comes in black, brown and white. The Zune’s UI is customizable with any wallpaper image, and appears more graphically exciting than the iPod’s simple menu system.
Zune owners can send music wirelessly to other Zune owners. The music sent is a sample, at full length and full quality, but it expires after three plays or three days, whichever comes first. Whole playlists can be sent, as well as pictures (which obviously do not expire).
The Zune Marketplace is where you can download songs, either buying individual tracks or picking up a Zune Pass unlimited music subscription. The Zune Marketplace uses Microsoft Points, so you can purchase music without a credit card.
The FM tuner can display station name and song information, for those stations broadcasting a Radio Broadcast Data Standards (RBDS) signal.
The Zune can automatically import your Windows Media Player and iTunes libraries.
The Zune can import unprotected music from the following formats:
The Zune can import images from JPEG.
The Zune can import unprotected video from the following formats:
Zune devices come preloaded with music from several labels, including DTS, EMI Musicâ€™s Astralwerks Records and Virgin Records, Ninja Tune, Playlouderecordings, Quango Music Group, Sub Pop Records, and V2/Artemis Records.
The Zune Car Pack includes an FM transmitter and car charger. The Zune Home A/V Pack includes an output cable for TV or stereo, a dock, a sync cable and an AC adapter. The Zune Travel Pack is a set of five accessories, with premium earphones, a remote, a gear bag a sync cable and the AC adapter.
Here is the official Zune press release announcement, hot off the wires:
Microsoft’s Zune Delivers Connected Music and Entertainment Experience
Thursday September 14, 12:00 pm ET
Built-in Wireless Technology Lets Consumers Share Experiences Device to Device
REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 14 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Marking the next big milestone for its Connected Entertainment vision, Microsoft Corp. today unveiled details of the first products to be released under its Zune(TM) brand. Designed around the principles of sharing, discovery and community, Zune will create new ways for consumers to connect and share entertainment experiences. The Zune experience centers around connection — connection to your library, connection to friends, connection to community and connection to other devices.
“The digital music entertainment revolution is just beginning,” said J Allard, vice president, design and development, at Microsoft, who is leading the charge for building the family of Zune products. “With Zune, we are not simply delivering a portable device, we are introducing a new platform that helps bring artists closer to their audiences and helps people find new music and develop new social connections.”
The Zune Experience
Available this holiday season in the United States, Zune includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. The Zune device features wireless technology, a built-in FM tuner and a bright, 3-inch screen that allows users to not only show off music, pictures and video, but also to customize the experience with personal pictures or themes to truly make the device their own. Zune comes in three colors: black, brown and white.
Every Zune device creates an opportunity for connection. Wireless Zune-to- Zune sharing lets consumers spontaneously share full-length sample tracks of select songs, homemade recordings, playlists or pictures with friends between Zune devices. Listen to the full track of any song you receive up to three times over three days. If you like a song you hear and want to buy it, you can flag it right on your device and easily purchase it from the Zune Marketplace.
Zune makes it easy to find music you love — whether it’s songs in your existing library or new music from the Zune Marketplace. Easily import your existing music, pictures and videos in many popular formats and browse millions of songs on Zune Marketplace, where you can choose to purchase tracks individually or to buy a Zune Pass subscription to download as many songs as you want for a flat fee.
To get started with great music and videos out of the box, every Zune device is preloaded with content from record labels such as DTS, EMI Music’s Astralwerks Records and Virgin Records, Ninja Tune, Playlouderecordings, Quango Music Group, Sub Pop Records, and V2/Artemis Records.
To enhance the Zune experience, three accessory packs help Zune users enjoy their music where they want to, at home or on the road. The packs and the individual accessories, all designed exclusively for Zune, will be available at launch:
The Zune Car Pack includes everything needed to hit the road with a Zune device, such as the built-in FM tuner with AutoSeek and the Zune Car Charger.
The Zune Home A/V Pack enhances your experience in the home through five products that integrate Zune with the TV and music speakers: Zune AV Output Cable, Zune Dock, Zune Sync Cable, Zune AC Adapter and the Zune Wireless Remote for Zune Dock.
Zune Travel Pack is a set of five products designed to keep friends and family entertained on the road: Zune Premium Earphones, Zune Dual Connect Remote, Zune Gear Bag, Zune Sync Cable and the Zune AC Adapter.
Providing consumers with additional options to customize and personalize their Zune experience, Microsoft is also working with leading accessory manufacturers Altec Lansing, Belkin Corp., Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO), Dual Electronics, Griffin Technology, Harman Kardon and JBL, Integrated Mobile Electronics, Jamo International, Klipsch Audio Technologies, Logitech, Monster Cable Products Inc., Speck, Targus Group International Inc. and VAF Research
The Future is Bright
In addition to the features available at launch, built-in wireless technology and powerful software provide a strong foundation to continue to build new shared experiences around music and video. As Zune evolves, the device can be easily updated. The Zune software on your PC will let you know when these updates are available for download.
Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment platform that provides an end- to-end solution for Connected Entertainment. The Zune experience includes a 30GB digital media player, the Zune Marketplace music service, and a foundation for an online community that will enable music fans to discover new music. Inspired by the vast and varied community of music fans, Zune focuses on helping emerging artists shape the digital canvas. 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.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/zune .
Founded in 1975, Microsoft is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
It’s funny, but the page says the download is for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, yet the file description reads:
This is an update to the Beta 2 version of a 2007 Microsoft Office system product. Beta 2 Technical Refresh updates are compatible with the Microsoft Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 pre-release product.
The Technical Refresh expires on March 31, 2007 (although the license agreement may display the wrong date), a pretty short beta, which may be kind of proof that the release dates rumored for Office 2007 (late January) are pretty on target.
Technical Refresh disables Office’s Save as PDF/XPS capability. You must install the plugin to restore the feature.
Technical Refresh is incompatible with the Norton Antivirus Office plugin, that checks for viruses in macros. If the plugin is running, you will not be able to open files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access and Project. Disable the plugin until the issue is fixed.
Xbox 360 Fanboy reports that European gamers are getting a ten whole free days of Xbox Live Gold at the end of the month. From September 20-29, Euroers will be able to play on Live with all the features, for free. After that, you can go back to being mere mortals, or sign up for a year (just $49 on Amazon).
I tried Live for a month, and decided not to sign up. For the moment, I’m too casual a gamer, or at least, too much of a single player game guy, or worse, just really crappy at multiplayer, to justify paying $50 a year for Texas Hold ‘Em online. Plus, I was really turned off by the idiot teenage boys with the girly voices and Xbox Live headsets. Seriously, there should be a way to mark every idiot teen I come across as “idiot little boy” and never have to play with them again.
* – What, I couldn’t think of anything else, so every single time I just typed “joe”.
Oddly enough, search.msn.com forwards to search.live.com, but searching from MSN.com gives you Windows Live Search, located at search.msn.com. (!) (?) Weird. Run any additional searches, and you remain on an MSN.com domain, including Image or News searches (although Local and QnA searches do switch to Live.com). While this arrangement preserves permalinks and old toolbars, it is kind of unnecessary.
The engine is the same, so why not shove users over to the live.com domain? Perhaps Microsoft wanted to avoid too much confusion. I’ll be keeping an eye out if they change this last bit over after a month or two.
There’s finally a way to get, without paying any money or finding any inside connections, a Windows Vista product key. It’s actually quite simple: Click this link. Just follow the directions, sign in to passport, answer a few questions, and get your product key in seconds. The link comes courtesy of Gizmodo, via Digg. Enjoy!
I just picked up two product keys, good for 20 Vista RC1 installs. Excellent.
Microsoft has been sued by Paltalk Holdings Inc over patents used in managing a large number of people playing games over the internet. God only knows the specifics of the patent, since the patent application seems to simply explain how internet games have worked forever, or who Paltalk Holdings is* (probably another piece of crap patent lawsuit firm), but the patent appears to have zero merit, which means the courts will probably uphold it and Microsoft will wind up paying a ton of money.
Amazing how you can patent just about anything, just by showing the skills required to write a simple, obvious idea on a sheet of paper, and then to properly file said sheet of paper. Amazing. Since you can patent anything that exists, it stands to reason that the only way to avoid patent lawsuits is by not existing. I wonder if I’m in trouble. Has anyone patented “A method of communication over wide area networks using relational databases to display information in a reverse chronological progression”?
* – this is not the Paltalk video messaging company. Trust me. I checked.
The Seattle Weekly has the news that Microsoft is going to finally brief the media on its upcoming Zune player tomorrow. There are lots of tidbits in the article, which is in many ways a portrait of J. Allard, including that the Zune’s screen is 50% larger than the iPod’s, that it does have a “round navigational tool”, that the centerpiece of the device is indeed its wi-fi capability. Most interesting is a sentence which seems to indicate the Zune will play the Quicktime video (or Windows will auto-convert it) being distributed as “iPod format”, something Windows Media devices currently can’t do.
Microsoft hopes that its emphasis on the music, rather than just the gadget, will help set Zune apart from its dominant rival. The company is also loading Zune with a 50 percent larger screen than current iPods, as well as wireless capabilities that will allow users to send their favorite songs to other users with devices in close proximity.
Microsoft says that Zune will be compatible with video formatted for an iPod or any other media player.
… Allard has an unusual recurring event scheduled into his calendar. “Once a month,” he says, “I go to Target. I get a corn dog, walk the aisles, and listen to customers.”
… Microsoft, which has always snubbed its nose at so-called “content providers.” But Allard insists that content, not software, is now king. And he says it has to be “tomorrow’s content, not yesterday’s content.”
… Microsoft’s intent to preload the device with 25 music and video selections, hopefully ones that would surprise and intrigue users.
Allard likes to say that he thinks of iPod as “the Pong of digital music,”…
Personally, I can’t stand the iPod, with its mass market-like idiot devotion to a device that does nothing but hold back the market. I may not be rooting for Microsoft to win, but I do want them to do something better than what Apple has been doing. I’m not convinced, based on the reports so far, that Microsoft has done the job to beat Apple.
The Zune is too similar to the iPod, in too many ways, to be revolutionary. It seems more evolutionary. I was hoping for new ideas in form factor and interface, and the Zune doesn’t seem to be it. Maybe Microsoft will force Apple to do something new, maybe Zune 2.0 will be that new. We’ll have to see. For now, the waiting is on for Microsoft to wow us.
(via Microsoft Watch)