Microsoft didn’t realize that the Zune 80 gigabyte would be as popular as it is, and as a result it is sold out all over the place. Amazon.com doesn’t have it in stock, and shipments were delayed by 10 days. I’ve said it for a while: With the price being equal, there’s no reason to choose the iPod over the Zune, given the Zune’s improved features and much better looks. Apple screwed up this generation of iPods, and Microsoft is going to have significantly improved market share over the next year.
Rapid Repair, a company that fixes iPods and Zunes with 24-48 hour turnarounds (for when you need it fixed and back in your hands right now) is disassembling an 8-gigabyte Zune right now on their website. No streaming video, but they are posting pictures and text at every step of the way. Head to their website to see the whole process, which is descriptive enough that you can use it as a guide for taking apart your own Zune.
I spoke with a rep from the company, and they told me that the average minor repair runs $35, with a major repair usually running $90. Considering that repairs from Apple and Microsoft can run pretty expensive anyway, and you get the unit back in a day or two, it seems like a good deal. If you’ve had experience with Rapid Repair, feel free to talk about it in the comments.
Microsoft updated the Zune software today to the new version 2.0, so users of first-gen Zune devices can go get their new firmware and features. The update brings a much-improved version of the software, better than the Windows Media Player clone first version, with wireless sync, a new Zune Marketplace with over a million DRM-free tracks, cool new album art visualizations, and the new Zune social network.
The new Zunes go on sale, too, so get yourself an 80-gigabyte for $250 at Amazon, or the 8-gigabyte Flash Zune for $200 in red or pink or green, $187 in black, or the 4-gigabyte for $150 in pink or red or green, $138 in black.
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If you’re wondering why the 80-gig Zune is only available in black, the answer is: It isn’t. The big secret Microsoft held back is Zune Originals, the website where you can order any Zune (right now, only the Flash Zunes, but next month, the 80-gigger also) and choose the color, select artwork to be etched on the back, and/or add up to five lines of text to be etched on the back, at no additional charge.
Consumers no longer need to settle for the same portable media player as everybody else. The new Zune Originals online store will let people make a unique statement by customizing their Zune with laser-engraved art or personal text. Zune worked with 18 accomplished artists from all over the world to create a collection of 27 different designs, called the Artist Series, which will be available exclusively through Zune Originals. In addition to the Artist Series, a separate Tattoo Series will feature 20 graphics that consumers can have laser-engraved on their Zune with up to three lines of text. Alternatively, people can choose to engrave up to five lines of text in place of a design. On the Zune Originals Web site, customers can choose their Zune (Zune 80GB, Zune 8GB or Zune 4GB), pick a color and then select a design and their desired text.
This is a really cool service, one you have to pay for and sometimes don’t even get with that other fruit company, and to give it away for free is really great. Microsoft is making it easy and affordable to personalize your Zune, and that is going to be very appealing to some potential purchasers.
The only downside I can see is that, as time goes by, retailers are going to discount the Zune, making the Zune Originals version more expensive than retail. Since Microsoft is going by the official retail price, which will not go down for a while, this won’t be very “free” for much longer, which is a shame. Amazon is already selling some Zunes for $12-13 off, and that divide will only worsen.
Long Zheng spotted a Corvette hot yellow Zune, which looks really cool. I might have to give that one a second look when it becomes official.
Oh, god. This is going too far.
First, number one Zune fan Steven Smith got a Zune tattoo on his arm. Then, he went and got a second Zune tattoo on the other arm, and a few months later picked up a third tattoo opposite the first one on his back. Rather than continue to make his body a canvas for promoting the Zune, he’s actually found a way to take this further.
First name: Microsoft
Last name: Zune.
You know what I don’t get? Even if you’re going through the whole process, changing all your legal documents, do you really need to go through life with the first name of “Microsoft”? Shouldn’t he change his first name to “Zune” and leave the last name alone? This way, he could be “Zune Smith”, which is actually a really cool name. If he’s smart, he’ll change his mind and go that route, I hope.
Read the giant thread at ZuneScene.
UPDATE: Microsoft has significantly increased the Zune’s advertising budget for the next six months, earmarking $17 million to be spent pushing the player (which is double what it spent all of last year). It is also dropping the word “social” as the focus of its branding, instead focusing on individuality as a differentiating factor.
The new message with Zune is that the iPod is superficial, its too popular, that iPod’s are just an army of clones buying the same overpriced and underfeatured product year after year. The message is that Zune is unique, new, and a better deal, and its a good one, provided they communicate it better.
My thinking? Redo “1984″ with a bunch of drones using their iPods, and Zune coming to shake things up, and you’ve got a winner.
With the new Zune Marketplace, users will gain the ability to subscribe to a podcast with a single click, provided a special link is used. If you have a podcast RSS feed, just link to it using this sort of link:
Replace that last part with the URL of your feed, and any user with the software installed can click it to subscribe in their Zune software, even if the podcast isn’t in the Zune Marketplace. If they don’t have it installed, they’ll be prompted to do so, and once they’ve subscribed they’ll get regular episodes automatically downloaded and ready on their Zunes.
If you need an image (or so-called chicklet button) to point to the feed, here’s the official one (and it’s on Flickr, so hotlinking is cool):
Jeez, the Zune is getting pretty freakin cheap. The 30-gigabyte first generation Zune, set to be replaced by the new 80-gigger, is selling for pennies on the dollar (or something like that). Woot has a refurbished brown Zune for just $80, the cheapest price I’ve EVER seen a 30-gig MP3 player sell at. It’s a stunning price, so please, for your own sake, just buy the damn thing.
Meanwhile, the cheapest price on an Apple iPod 30 gigabyte, also a discontinued model, is around $200. Yeah, that’s value.
If you want the black or white Zune, it’s still available for $100. If you bought the brown last week, you get $20 off your next Woot purchase.
I was helping a friend set up his new brown Zune last night, transferring music from his iPod to the Zune, and I have to say that I’d never buy the iPod over the Zune. While the Zune didn’t have any smooth controls (though the new Zunes do), the iPod click wheel has always annoyed the hell out of me, so I don’t consider that a problem. The Zune software was a pleasure after suffering through iTunes (and the new Zune software is supposed to be even better).
I know the iPod is a hugely popular product, and there are a lot of cool things you can do with it and get for it, but it’s never appealed to me. The click wheel is annoying, the new metal look is fugly, iTunes is trash and Apple’s lock-in culture just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not saying the Zune is a revelation or the second coming, but sitting next to an iPod, I don’t get why anyone would go with Apple. I guess its a matter of personal taste, but I’m not an iPod guy.
For the record, I didn’t and probably won’t buy a Zune. My Windows Mobile phone is still the best music device I’ve owned, and I don’t need anything else.
On the fence about the Zune? Well, two places are selling it for such a low price, you may not be able to resist. Right now, woot! has the original 30 gigabyte Zune for merely $100, $150 off the original price, plus five dollars shipping. With the large screen on this thing, its a great deal (price-wise, it compares to an iPod Shuffle, so its really a no-brainer)
woot!’s Zune is refurbished, so if you don’t go with woot!, go with good ol’ Buy.com, which also has it for just $100, and a new unit at that. Not only that, but it’s free shipping, so you really get it at a steal, and new Google Checkout customers walk away with the video/audio player for a miniscule $90. The savings! I can’t take it!
In other Zune news:
Microsoft tapped Rick Thompson, head of Microsoft’s hardware operations (computer peripherals like mice and keyboards) to be the new second-in-command of the Zune division. Thompson will report to Zune chief J Allard.
The new Zune store, coming with the Zune 2 in weeks, will have 1 million music tracks that will be sold without any copy protection. While there will still be plenty of tracks with DRM, the 1 million tracks is a sizable investment in an open music infrastructure, which is just super.
The new Zunes have been tested for battery life, and they turn out pretty much even to the iPod. Both the hard drive and flash Zunes have the same music battery life as comparable iPod Classics and iPod Nanos (30 hours and 24 hours, repectively), while their video performance is four hours, compared to five hours on the iPod’s smaller screens.
Microsoft has launched the second version of its Zune music player, and the hardware is pretty much what was expected. The new main Zune runs $250 for an 80 gigabyte hard drive, same as a comparable iPod, and is thinner than the old version with a 3.2 inch screen (resolution 320×240). Two new flash memory Zunes will also be offered, with $150 getting you 4 gigabytes and $200 getting 8 gigs in a smaller form factor and a 1.8 inch screen (same resolution as the larger device).
All the new devices feature the “squircle” control pad (half circle, half square), officially called a Zune Pad. The pad is a completely unique button, that you can press like a standard four-way controller, or you can slide your finger along to scroll, much like flicking on the iPhone’s touch screen. At least you don’t have to make your finger do circles.
The real highlight is the new software. Updated Zune software will allow syncing of the device over wifi, which means you can set up your playlists, songs, podcasts, movies and whatever on your computer and anytime you are home, the device will sync your media through the air, without you ever needing to bring the Zune over to the computer (you can even leave the Zune in your car, and trust it’ll grab the songs while you’re parked at home). Wireless song purchases are not offered yet.
Here’s some video of the new interface:
Wireless song sharing has been made easier. Before, songs that you got from a friend would only play three times over three days, then dissapear. Now, the three time limit is still there, but the songs don’t expire over time, meaning you can just keep holding onto them until you want to listen to them.
Microsoft is also adding 1 million songs to the Zune Marketplace that feature no DRM, no copy protection at all. The device also supports new codecs, like h.264 and MPEG-4
The Zune software has also been updated, and now allows you to subscribe to music and video podcasts. It also features a social music community with “Zune Cards” that reflect users’ musical interests and recent songs. You will also be able to sync recorded TV shows from Windows Media Center to the device.
The original Zune will be updated with the new software and continue to be sold for $200 as long as supplies last. As of June, Microsoft had sold 1.2 million of them, one Zune for every 25 similar iPods sold, so while it has a solid market position, there’s a lot of work to be done in catching Apple.
As far as the old Zune getting the new Zune features, Gizmodo says “This is how you treat your customers”, reflecting growing animosity against Apple. Over the last month, Apple’s users have been turning against it, angry at the company for shipping buggy updates that broke their phones, fighting against unlocked iPhones and third party software, and releasing an iPod Touch that was missing features for no other reason than that so Apple could sell those features on the more expensive iPhone.
Funny, a year ago, you wouldn’t imagine people trumpeting Microsoft as the company that cares more, but Apple’s done a fine job of revealing that, at its core, its a company that overcharges, operates on image, not quality, locks down its software and hardware and just plain doesn’t give a crap about what anyone thinks.
And I’ve got news for you: In many ways, this new Zune is superior to the current iPod. The 80-gig iPod, which sells for the same price, looks like a can of shit (aluminum MP3 players is just a stupid idea), while the Zune looks more like an updated iPod, and don’t get me started on how much better the small Zune looks than the new Nanos. Plus, given that all the Zunes have wifi, which no comparable iPod does, and you’ve got a pretty good deal.
With Apple trying to lock you into everything and determined to not update the software in any significant way in order to sell more iPhones, why wouldn’t you buy a Zune now? Microsoft finally has a compelling case, and good for them.
Expect to see these devices in stores the middle of November.
Looks like Microsoft will be launching the second version of its Zune portable media player tomorrow, Wednesday, unveiling the updated hard drive Zune and the cheaper new flash Zune. Engadget has pictures of the display units, which show a thinner, slick little device and some hints of the “squircle” control pad. It sort of reminds me of HTC’s Touch.
Word is Microsoft intends to support older Zunes (and build confidence in the future of the platform) by launching a firmware upgrade for 1.0 Zunes that will give them the newer features of the new Zunes. You won’t get the sleeker hardware, but some new features and better looking software should be a nice prize for early adopters, and send a message that Microsoft intends on upgrading the platform (something it sorely dissapointed on over the last year).
ZuneScene reprints a conversation it had with what it says is a trusted source, who confirms they are shooting for an October 16 release date for the next generation Zunes. The new Zunes will come in green, pink, black or red, and in both larger sizes with an 80 gigabyte hard drives, and smaller sizes with 4 and 8 gig flash memory.
The most interesting thing might be the new center control button will not be the old circle button, but a new control called a “squircle”, a half-square, half circle, which has a dome underneath so you can push it from the sides. Sounds like the new button might be the sort of unique touch that forces people to give the Zune a second look. I can’t wait to see the new Zunes in person.
Remember the guy who got a Zune logo tattoo, then a Zune bunny tattooed on his other arm? Well, he’s decided to make it a three-peat, this one with the text from the Zune box. Here’s what it looks like:
If you have to know why the text is arranged as it is, check out the Zune retail box:
Apple made a number of big announcements today, including lowerng the price of the iPhone and releasing a new iPod. How’d they do?
Scores on a scale from 1-10:
Ringtones: Apple announced that it will cost you 99 cents extra to get music ringtones on your iPhone, on top of what you paid for the song (only songs from iTunes, not your own music, will work). Besides the $2 total, and the limited inventory, users can just hack their iPhone with little effort to do the same thing. Underwhelming, not effortless (you have to edit the ringtone yourself, and pay for each edit), and buyers will avoid this one like the plague.
iPod Nano: New Nano is short, fat, plays video and games, has CoverFlow (with poor performance). The pricing is great, but the player is too damn small. The screen, while improved, is too tiny for video, making the video feature a waste. The old iPod screen was tough for video; this is going to be impossible. The price is great, though, and the shape is kind of stupid. Gets good points for being cheap, lots of storage, and colorful, but if you want video, the grade is a 4.
iPod Classic: The old iPod is now “Classic”. It’s also thinner and with a lot more storage. The 80-gig is a mere $250 and the new 160-gig is $350. The Zune can’t compete with those numbers and these features, not with Microsoft’s failure to deliver on wifi promises. Barring an 80-gig Zune at $250 with better wifi features, Microsoft could be toast.
Apple does not have a huge hole in its lineup. As you’ll see there are no iPods between 16 gigs and 80 gigs, and certainly no 30-gig cheaper than $250. Apple should have kept making the 30-gig for $200. That’s a mistake. The Classic is clearly unpopular (Nano is the top seller), and Apple is overloading it with space. Don’t be surprised if they find a way to retire the model entirely in a year. Nothing really new, but holy crap the storage space!
iPod Touch: New iPod, basically a thinner iPhone with no call phone features. It has wifi, internet, YouTube, giant touch screen. For $300 (8 gigs) and $400 (16 gigs), this is the new top iPod (forget the Classic, k?), It’s a wonderful thing, though not cheap enough to not just pay a little extra for an iPhone. As usual, the iPod is full of great features, but the price begs questions. Still, if you wanted an iPhone, here’s a cheaper way to do it.
Compared to a real PDA, it’s not perfect. Still, it is the slickest touchscreen device on the market, full of fun stuff, and it works better as an iPod than an iPhone. It’s a great product, not perfect, but really, really good. So tempting, I might buy it (and I’ve never bought an iPod).
iPhone: Apple dropped the price by $200 and killed off the 4-gigger. An 8-gig iPhone is now $400, $100 more than a similar iPod Touch, but (for the most part ) still stuck with an awful AT&T contract. It’s cheap enough to not be absurd, and while the price drop should annoy the biggest Apple fans, it makes the hottest phone of the year more available.
Wireless iTunes Store: This is useful, and would be nothing special, but Microsoft has been dragging their feet on this for a year. Microsoft’s failure to ship this makes Apple look amazing, so this gets a high grade.
Starbucks: Seriously, they didn’t know that a ten-minute commercial for Starbucks would bore the hell out of everyone? And now the iPhone will annoy you and say, “Hey, a Starbucks!” every time you pass one? If you can’t turn this “feature” off, it’s a reason not to buy.
Overall? Apple did great, not spectacular. Sales should be flat, which is great, considering the high expectations from previous years, but it takes really good products to merely stay flat at this point. The main thing is that Apple proved today that it exists in a seperate universe from its competitors, and that their products really don’t measure up.
Zune 2 better be better than we’re hearing, or it shouldn’t be released at all.
Gizmodo ran this image showing what a source tells them is the next version of the Zune, as well as the first version of the Flash memory-based Zune (like the iPod Nano). The new iPods supposedly coming out in an hour, it’s good to see what’s next. Looks like the big Zune will have 80 gigabytes of storage, while the Flash Zune will be offered in 4- and 8-gig versions.
Zune Insider reports that the Zune is getting a $50 price cut off suggested retail price, dropping it to $199. Coincidence that the cut is coming as Apple is announcing new product, and as Microsoft is prepping a new version? Of course not!
Of course, Amazon has it for even less, just $181.
I really like this video making fun of a possible Zune phone:
Woot, the website with the daily deal, is offering the Microsoft Zune in white for a mere $150, a hundred dollars off the regular retail price. Head to Woot to buy it right now, or read the comments on the deal.
By comparison, Amazon currently offers the Zune for $200, which is $50 off retail.
Microsoft is working to expand the market for Zunes, offering the Halo Zune at Military Retail stores, although there is no word as to whether the soldiers will get a price break. Also, they’re giving away 300 Halo Zunes to soldiers leaving for duty, which will probably only make the rest of the soldiers jealous.
“Hey is that a Halo Zune?
“Shut up! We’re being shot at!”
“But I want a Halo Zune!”
“If you shut up, I’ll give it to you. You’re going to get us killed!”
At least the Halo Zune has camouflage and is less likely to be spotted by snipers than a bright white iPod.
HD Photo Becomes JPEG XR, Microsoft Blames Family In Baby’s Death, Mass. Accepts Open XML, Ballmer iPod Commercial, IE Most Influential Product
Microsoft’s HD Photo Format To Be Standardized As JPEG XR
First it was Windows Media Photo, then HD Photo. Now, Microsoft’s high powered image format is set to become an industry standard, literally the next JPEG, as the Joint Photographic Expert’s Group is working to to make it so under the new name, JPEG XR (eXtended Range). JPEG XR will become the next generation image format, available under an open license to everyone, allowing for a a ton more color information to be saved by the camera. It should prove a great alternative to camera RAW by actually being a standard (RAW is different from every camera manufacturer, sometimes every model).
Microsoft Blames The Family For Xbox Fire That Killed Baby
Microsoft issued its first response to a lawsuit that blames it in the death in fire of a baby. The family of the child is suing Microsoft, claiming that the power supply of the original Xbox overheated, sparked the wiring and started the fire at the house in Warsas, Illinois. Despite the fact that Microsoft recalled all Xbox 360 power adapters due to fire concerns, they are fighting, and said in their statement:
The losses “were the result of an open, obvious, and apparent condition which was known to and recognized by the plaintiff and/or others who, nevertheless, knowingly, willingly, intentionally, and voluntarily exposed themselves to said danger and assumed the risk of incident, injuries, losses, and damages,” Microsoft charges.
Considering the number of families misusing power strips, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft has enough evidence to support its side. Still, considering the obvious fire problems the power supply had, as well as the fact that the family is just seeking damages in excess of $50,000, maybe it’d be easier to just pay them off?
Massachusetts Relents, Accepts Open XML
Massachusetts has backed off from its plans to become an OpenDocument-only user, accepting both ODF and Microsoft Office’s Open XML as acceptable file formats. The state had been moving its IT towards what it called standards, and did not consider Office, despite being the best-selling and most widespread file format, a standard, but Microsoft’s moves to get Open XML standardized have satisfied them, finally. Part of the push to keep using Office came from disability groups, which require Office’s disability features.
It was all well and good for Mass. to try and push standards in order to make government documents more accessible, but they got sidetracked with the ODF vs. Office thing early on as it turned into a political statement. It stopped being about accessibility and started being about hurting the “evil corporation”, Microsoft, and that’s a stupid way to run a business or a government. If someone wants to use ODF, use it if it is superior or if your constituents support it, not to make a statement and use a format no one else is using.
Ballmer iPod Commercial
Check out this iPod-style commercial featuring screaming n’ jumping Steve Ballmer:
What’s strange is that it was originally linked via Microsoft’s link referral site, go.microsoft.com, meaning someone at Microsoft set up a permanent redirect to the video from Microsoft’s own website. According to The Register, they also linked to this:
Internet Explorer Named Most Influential Product
A CompTIA survey of IT professionals has named Microsoft’s Internet Explorer the most influential technology product of the last 25 years. Not only did Microsoft take the top spot, it won or tied all of the top four spots, with Microsoft Word in second, Windows 95 third, and Excel fourth (tied with Apple’s iPod). IE, Word and Excel certainly aren’t as sexy as a tiny music player, but their impact on the industry is undeniable, and this survey reflects that.
Craig Ferguson On Zune, Microsoft Works To Be Free, Live Search Gets Sitemaps, Silverlight Gets RC1, BSOD Tattoo
Catching up: I had a crazy week, with me and my wife going on a short wedding anniversary vacation, one of my best friends getting married, and my aunt and her family moving forever to another continent. There’s a lot of stuff filling up the queue, so we’re going to go through it double time
Craig Ferguson Pokes Fun At Zune
Craig Ferguson, host of the Late Late Show on CBS, makes fun of Microsoft’s attempts to counter the iPod and iPhone:
I love the way he pronounces Zune.
(via Apple Are)
Microsoft Developing Free Ad-Supported Works Suite
Mary Jo Foley broke the news that Microsoft is preparing the next version of Microsoft Works, Works 9.0, as a free ad-supported product. Works users will get the typical address book, calendar, database, dictionary, PowerPoint Viewer, basic version of Word, and templates, but pay nothing extra. In order for Microsoft to better compete with Google Documents, Works will be free and supported by advertising within the application windows.
Check out possible screenshots here.
Live Search Finally Adds Supports For Sitemaps
Windows Live Search has finally got support for Sitemaps, the growing industry standard for websites to report their full and updated page listing to search engines. Live Search will now use your website’s Sitemap if you point to it in a robots.txt file. They do not support it in any sort of webmaster console, and they do not have a means for websites to ping them with updates. With Microsoft on board, the top four search engines (Google, Yahoo and Ask are the others) now all use Sitemaps.
Silverlight Release Candidate 1.0 Is Out
Microsoft released the first Release Candidate of Silverlight 1.0, moving towards final release. Hopefully, they’ll wrap up 1.0 quickly and be able to put all the resources behind 1.1, which is the version more people are talking about, since it contains many important features, like the mini .NET CLR. Click the link to get all the downloads.
Blue Screen Of Death Tattoo
I can’t imagine there are fans of the Blue Screen of Death, the screen you see when Windows crashes, so this must be some sort of counterculture thing. Witness this man’s tattoo of the famous screen (text only, not blue):
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