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Matt McSpirit on Virtualisation, Management and Core Infrastructure



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So, what’s happened since I last posted about Zune? A hell of a lot, so it’s about time I caught up, right!

Zune - Black, White and Brown Zune Boxshot

Well, what do we know so far? It’s being built by Toshiba, it will come, initially, with a 30Gb capacity, and will have a number of cool, and useful features out of the box, such as the ability to download tracks without a computer, as it has wi-fi built in, and you can also share songs with your mates, by creating an ad-hoc network (similar to Windows Vista Meeting Space).  You can even customise it...

Customised Zune - with Halo!

Strewth, it’s even got an FM radio – what more could you want? Now, before you shout – sharing between users?? What about copyright music etc! Microsoft has got it covered: users will be able to wirelessly send other Zune owners a full-length song, which the recipient can listen to three times within a three-day period. After that, the recipient will need to buy the song to play it again. Sorted. Millions and millions of users will be giving each other free trials of tracks before we know it.

Well, according to the analysts, (and after all, they know best, right ;)), it is important to give Zune time. It is not going to take Apple’s market share overnight, I mean, come on, how long has the iPod been around now, building its user base year on year? Exactly – it will take Microsoft, and the Zune, quite a while to break through, but we are definitely not saying ‘it can’t be done’ because we know it can, after all, people said we’d never catch up with Sony....

The Laurie Sullivan, over at TechWeb, raises some interesting points:

Analysts don't expect profits to come from the hardware, but rather software and on-going services that tie the media player into Microsoft's home Media Center through Vista. "I don't think the hardware will become an attractive business," said Walter Pritchard, senior analyst, Institutional Research, Cowen and Company LLC

And as devices converge into one multimedia platform, some speculate Zune could become the first step toward a cellular phone-like device that would encompass all features. It wouldn't surprise Pritchard to see Microsoft merge Windows mobile and Zune, but he said it's easier to convince people to use their phone as another device, rather than using their music device as a phone.”

ZunePhone? Hmmm – they could be on to something there...something that is reiterated by the guys at Red Herring, who attended a small press event, in Redmond, to launch the Zune.

A reporter at the Zune event pointed out that Chairman Bill Gates has previously stated that the future of digital music is on phones, a Microsoft representative said. The software giant’s Zune people at the event were asked whether that was any indication Microsoft might evolve its media player into a cell phone at some point. “We’re definitely exploring the possibilities,” Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Zune, told reporters. Mr. Stephenson did not elaborate further, according to Microsoft representatives.”

J Allard

The lucky geezers over at Engadget managed to snag an interview with Mr Xbox 360, and Zune Head-Honcho, J Allard, which revealed some pretty interesting information...

The first product we'll introduce this holiday will be a connected one -- that's why we put in WiFi in every device, because we think those connected experiences are really going to signal what the future of the music industry looks like, and the future of television and film and everything else. And the community wants to play a big part in it. So while we're starting now and sharing between devices where you can share songs with your friends (3 plays for 3 days), and sort of get the recommendations of your trusted circle of friends and experience and discover new music. 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.

We have really pretty strong commitment to being compatible with your existing libraries. We know we're not the first player in this space, and that there's a ton of media out there, and so we put a bunch of codec support in there. You know, iTunes by default rips in AAC, there's a lot of AAC content out there, so we'll play AAC natively. MP3s, obviously. Windows Media files, obviously. The video resolution is 320 x 240, QVGA resolution. And so we'll do H.264 playback as well, because there's a lot of content out on the web for video iPods. Lots of DVD ripping software out there that encodes to those formats, so the most popular formats out there, whether it's MPEG-4 or H.264, we'll support those. So, we really are taking a relatively agnostic approach to different formats. For us this is not a format play, we're not trying to tell consumers what format they have to keep their media in. We're trying to embrace the most popular formats out there. We won't have every codec, we won't have an extensible codec architecture, instead we want to make it really, really simple, and we're prioritizing the media that's out there and the media our consumers have.

Zune Marketplace

So, there is a great deal of positive out there, but, in recent weeks, there has also been negative, in the form of the PlaysForSure service not being supported by Zune. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Microsoft says the device won't play tracks or albums bought through existing music services affiliated with its own Windows Media "PlaysForSure" initiative. Those services - such as Napster, MTV's Urge and Yahoo Music Unlimited - have been partnering with Microsoft and device makers to try to challenge Apple Computer's iPod and iTunes juggernaut.” To me, on the surface, that seems like a pretty bad move. To beat Apple and the iPod, we need as many different ways to sing from the same song sheet as possible, yet this move, to me, indicates the Zune isn’t quite striking the right tones, yet Bryan Lee, a Microsoft corporate vice president involved in the Zune initiative, said he believes Zune will maintain a "peaceful co-existence" with the PlaysForSure partners. "I haven't heard any partners express their vision in the same way we're doing it" he said.

According to Colin Campbell, over at Next Generation, it’s not just music that Zune is intended for “Microsoft’s unveiling of its portable music player Zune didn’t have much to say about games or Xbox 360, but there is a connection. When Zune was first being touted it was heralded in some quarters as a portable games player cum music device. In fact, the emphasis is clearly on playing music. Microsoft’s iPod ‘killing’ strategy for the 30Gb Toshiba-built device is to offer Wi-Fi music-sharing and a 3-inch screen. Price, release date and games strategy have yet to be revealed

If you head on over to Cesar Menendez's blog - Zune Insider, you can get all the latest info straight from the horses mouth, so to speak.  Cesar is a Microsoft employee who is working on the Zune project - so I guess what he doesn't know about Zune, isn't worth knowing!

So, when is this Zune thingy released?  14th November, in the states.  No date for the UK as of yet, which is a shame, but, we get used to it.  How much will it be?  $249.99.  No price for the UK as of yet.  Seeing the pattern here? :-(

What will you get in the box?  Taken from Microsoft Press Release...

30GB digital media player will come equipped with wireless functionality for Zune-to-Zune sharing of music, pictures and home recordings; a bright, three-inch LCD video screen that works in portrait or landscape mode to view pictures and videos; and a built-in FM tuner. The device will be available in three colors: black, brown and white.

A selection of preloaded content including songs, music videos and film shorts are installed on the device’s hard drive to help consumers discover new artists and entertainment.

Zune makes it easy to find music you love - whether it’s songs in your existing library or new music from the Zune Marketplace:

Its dynamic music service will be continually updated with new content and experiences so there is always something to discover. The Zune Marketplace lets users browse and purchase songs individually.

A Zune Pass subscription gives consumers access to millions of songs for $14.99 per month.

Users can purchase songs individually using Microsoft® Points for 79 points per track. Similar to a pre-paid phone card, Microsoft Points is a stored value system that can be redeemed at a growing number of online stores, including the Xbox Live® Marketplace.

In addition, consumers can choose from a full line of accessories to enhance the Zune experience and help Zune users enjoy their entertainment where they want to, at home or on the road. Accessories range in price from $19.99 to $99.99.

Pre-Loaded Content

Zune is a vehicle to explore new sounds and experiences. With that in mind, Microsoft pre-loaded each Zune device with a variety of songs and music videos from hot, new artists as well as some fun films and images. With something for everyone, the pre-loaded Zune content may just help you discover your new favorite band. Zune preloaded content includes the following:

Audio Tracks

Band of Horses, “Wicked Gil” (Sub Pop Records)
Bitter:Sweet, “The Mating Game” (Quango Music Group)
CSS, “Alala (Microsoft edit)” (Sub Pop Records)
Darkel, “At The End of The Sky (edit)” (Astralwerks)
Every Move a Picture, “Signs of Life” (V2)
Small Sins, “Stay” (Astralwerks)
The Adored, “Tell Me Tell Me” (V2)
The Rakes, “Open Book” (V2)
The Thermals, “A Pillar of Salt” (Sub Pop Records)

Music Video

30 Seconds to Mars, “The Kill” (Virgin Records)
BT, “1.618” (DTS Entertainment)
Chad VanGaalen, “Red Hot Drops” (Sub Pop Records)
Coldcut featuring Roots Manuva, “True Skool” (Ninja Tune)
CSS, “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” (Sub Pop Records)
Fruit Bats, “Live: The Wind That Blew My Heart Away” (Sub Pop Records)
Grandaddy, “Elevate Myself” (V2)
Hot Chip, “Over and Over” (Astralwerks Records)
Kraak & Smaak featuring Dez., “Keep Me Home” (Quango Music Group)
Kinski, “Live: The Snowy Parts of Scandinavia” (Sub Pop Records)
Paul Oakenfold, “Faster Kill Pussycat (Featuring Brittany Murphy)” (Maverick Records)
Serena-Maneesh, “Drain Cosmetics” (Playlouderecordings)

Film Shorts

5 Boro: “A New York Skateboarding Minute” (Skateboarding)
Radical Films: “Kranked — Progression” (Mountain Biking)
TGRTV The North Face (Skiing/Snowboarding)


A variety of images to personalize a Zune device, including 12 classic rock posters from “Art of Modern Rock”

Zune Accessories

For entertainment fans who want to experience their media from anywhere, Microsoft will offer the following accessories:

Zune Home A/V Pack. The Home A/V Pack includes everything you need to amplify your Zune experience. This set of five products integrates Zune with your big-screen TV and the best speakers in your house. The wireless remote puts you in control from virtually anywhere in the room. When you buy the Zune Home AV Pack, you’ll get the AV Output Cable, Zune Dock, Zune Wireless Remote with Lithium Battery, Zune Sync Cable and Zune AC Adapter for $99.99.

Zune Travel Pack. The Travel Pack includes everything you need to travel with your Zune device in style. This set of five products is designed to keep you and your friends and family entertained while you travel. When you buy the Zune Travel Pack, you’ll get the Zune Dual Connect Remote, Zune Premium Earphones, Zune Gear Bag, Zune Sync Cable and Zune AC Adapter for $99.99.

Zune Car Pack. The Car Pack includes everything you need to hit the road with your Zune device. With AutoSeek, setup is easy, and you can enjoy your music on the go and charge at the same time. When you buy the Zune Car Pack, you’ll get the FM transmitter with AutoSeek and the Zune Car Charger for $79.99.

Sold Individually

Zune AV Output Cable. The A/V Output Cable lets you connect your Zune device to a TV and home stereo. Ideal for listening to music and showing pictures and video, the A/V Output Cable is simple to set up and use, and will retail for $19.99.

Zune AC Adapter. The AC Adapter lets you charge your Zune device without a PC. For convenience, the AC Adapter will charge your Zune device in about three hours and will retail for $29.99.

Zune Sync Cable. The Sync Cable lets you connect your Zune device to your PC or the Zune AC Adapter (sold separately). It works as a replacement for your original sync cable or as a spare for travel and charging, and will retail for $19.99.

Zune Car Charger. The Car Charger lets you charge your device in the car while listening to your favorite music and even while using the FM transmitter with AutoSeek (sold separately). The Car Charger will retail for $24.99.

Zune Dock. The Dock elegantly displays your Zune device anywhere in your home or office. Featuring a connector port and an audio/video output, the Dock is ideal for syncing, charging and connecting with home A/V equipment. (A/V connectivity requires the Zune A/V Output Cable, sold separately.) The Dock will retail for $39.99.

Zune Wireless Remote for Zune Dock. Designed for use with Zune Dock (sold separately), the Wireless Remote lets you control your device from across the room. The Wireless Remote gives you quick access to your current playlist as well as full control over menu navigation and volume. The Wireless Remote will retail for $29.99.

Zune Dual Connect Remote. The Dual Connect Remote offers convenient playlist control and two headphone jacks with independent amplifiers and volume controls so you can listen with a friend or family member. The Dual Connect Remote will retail for $29.99.

Zune FM transmitter With AutoSeek. The FM transmitter with AutoSeek lets you wirelessly listen to music through your car’s stereo through the FM radio. AutoSeek automatically finds the optimal station so it’s easy to set up, and will retail for $69.99.

Zune Gear Bag. The Gear Bag lets you bring Zune and related accessories with you wherever you go. The Gear Bag comes with a rugged exterior and fitted compartments to protect your device while you travel. The Gear Bag will retail for $29.99.

Zune Premium Earphones. Designed exclusively for use with Zune, the Premium Earphones produce superior sound and feature a noise-isolating, in-ear design. With a convenient storage case and three earpiece sizes to choose from, you can listen to your music with added comfort and quality. The Premium earphones will retail for $39.99.


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