Microsoft has officially launched Xbox Music, the successor to Zune. Xbox Music combines the best features of each music service, allowing you to stream or download unlimited amounts of music, listen to personalized internet radio stations with Smart DJ, and buy music a la carte from the Xbox Music Store. Best of all, it’s fully compatible with your existing Zune devices and Windows Phone handsets.
Designed for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox 360, Xbox Music offers a number of features including free ad-supported music streaming on Windows 8, a premium Xbox Music Pass subscription, Smart DJ, and more. The best features, however, will be added in the coming months, including a cloud-based music locker complete with scan-and-match functionality, new ways to share music, a web-based player, and support for Android and iOS.
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Microsoft announced on Tuesday that Australians will finally get access to the Zune Music Marketplace and Zune Music Pass on November 16. This is exciting news for Australian customers who have been waiting years to get their hands on music direct from Zune.
Australia’s Zune Music Pass will run subscribers $11.99 a month or $119.90 a year. It will include all of the features people have come to expect, including unlimited streaming music videos, which was introduced earlier this month as part of the service’s expansion into Canada. The aforementioned announcement also included a price drop from $14.99 to $9.99, but the conversion rate means Australian customers will be paying a bit more.
The Zune Music Marketplace has a library of “more than 11 million tracks available for purchase in MP3 format.” DRM-free tracks purchased through the service are playable on every MP3-compatible device, while Zune Pass content can be streamed to Zune devices, Windows Phone, Xbox 360, the Zune PC software client, and Zune.net. The service is also accessible through Bing’s Music section.
We’re very excited to see the service start playing in yet another international market. It’s been a long time in coming, but the wait will be over in just three weeks.
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Microsoft finally confirmed on Monday that it is no longer manufacturing Zune devices. But despite what some might say, Zune itself is not dead. The Redmond software giant has turned its focus to the Zune software and bringing its three screens and a cloud vision to fruition. Zune powers the Music + Video experience on Windows Phone and Xbox 360, and it provides a premiere media experience on Windows PCs with the Zune software client.
“We recently announced that, going forward, Windows Phone will be the focus of our mobile music and video strategy, and that we will no longer be producing Zune players. So what does this mean for our current Zune users? Absolutely nothing. Your device will continue to work with Zune services just as it does today. And we will continue to honor the warranties of all devices for both current owners and those who buy our very last devices. Customer service has been, and will remain a top priority for us.”
This, of course, has been Microsoft’s strategy for over a year now. Dave McLauchlan, the former Senior Business Development Manager for Zune, said as much back in March. Windows Phone provides an excellent media experience. It’s not perfect–better integration with the Zune Social would certainly be appreciated–but it’s nearly there.
Microsoft announced on Thursday that it is introducing a new Zune Music Pass, adding support for unlimited streaming Music Videos, and expanding the Zune Music Marketplace and Music Pass to Canada.
The cost of Zune Pass is dropping 33% to $9.99 per month on October 3rd, putting it in range with other music subscription services. Of course, achieving this price meant that Microsoft had to make a few changes. The new Zune Music Pass will no longer include 10 free music credits every month, and subscribers will be limited to four devices (one PC and any combination of PCs, Zune devices, and Windows Phones). Streaming on Xbox 360 and Zune.net will function as usual. Unlike Europe, US customers will have a choice to stay with their current $14.99 plan–which will no longer be available after October 3rd–or switch to the new offering.
Both versions of the Zune Pass now include free streaming access to tens of thousands of music videos as well. Zune has long offered music videos, but they were only available for purchase. This little-known feature is sure to become more widely used after this update, which will go live on October 3rd as well.
The last, and arguably the most long-awaited, piece of news is that the Zune Music Marketplace and Music Pass is rolling out in Canada on October 3rd. Canadian subscribers will have access to more than 14 million tracks at a price point of C$9.99 per month or C$99.90 per year. It, too, includes access to streaming music videos on the Zune software client and Xbox 360.
Of course, that’s not all. The last paragraph of the press release includes a teaser: more Zune news is coming. While we don’t know what it might be, we suspect it could be tied to the upcoming Xbox 360 dashboard update.
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Regulars on the ABI forums are no doubt familiar with the awesome Dave McLauchlan or, as he is known around here, ”DaveMac-MS.” Dave worked at Microsoft for over 11 years, most recently as the Senior Business Development Manager for Zune. In addition to overseeing Zune hardware, Dave made sure the Zune HD always had a constant stream of high-quality apps. He’s always been very active in our forums, graciously interacting with the community and providing news and insights into Microsoft whenever possible.
On September 6, Dave announced that he was leaving Microsoft to found a startup company, Buddy, with fellow former Microsoft employee Jeff MacDuff. The two officially launched the company on Thursday, providing a great cloud-based solution for mobile developers. Buddy allows developers to quickly and easily integrate such services as geo-location, user accounts, meta data for users and applications, messaging, and much more into their apps.
Buddy provides a great service, and we wish Dave and his business partner the best of luck with their new company. Dave will continue to participate here on ABI as his “time and interests allow.” He’s always welcome here.
Microsoft has announced that it is decreasing the number of licensed Zune Music Pass devices for customers Europe. The announcement was made in an email to European subscribers on Tuesday, informing them of the change.
The current Zune Music Pass offering allows customers to license up to three PCs and three mobile devices–be it Zune or Windows Phone–for all-you-can-eat music streaming. But starting September 13, 2011, subscribers will only be allowed to license one PC and a combination of any three PCs or devices.
Microsoft has yet to provide an official reason for this change, but we suspect that it’s due to deals with music labels. The Zune Music Pass has been around for almost five years in the US, but it is less than a year old in Europe. Music deals vary from country to country, so it’s possible that the European publishers have demanded that Microsoft decrease the number of licensed devices.
This move is certainly more limiting, but the Zune Music Pass was originally intended for a single user or, unofficially, a family. Restricting the streaming collection to a single PC (or more, if you feel like sacrificing some of your devices) should help keep the subscription for users in the same household.
The Clip+ has a fantastic little form factor; somewhat cheap in build quality but very rugged. The interface is simple and relatively straightforward. The features on the Clip are more or less average, however it supports the alternative Rockbox firmware which provides tons of additional options (gapless playback, Replaygain, playlists, Last.fm scrobbling, etc). Read the full review or go ahead and buy it.
The J3 is a fantastic PMP with a very nice AMOLED screen and tons of features. It sports Cowon's trademark BBE sound enhancements, and offers a customizable user interface with strong support by our user community. You can usually find it at Amazon for the best price - and don't forget to check out our review.
Microsoft Zune HD
Sure, many of us are not big fans of the walled garden, but there are a lot of great things going on with the Zune: sturdy hardware, ultra easy to use user interface, and a media player that is worthy of Editor’s Choice. You can check out our Zune HD review or stop by our Zune forums for the latest info and gossip.
Phonak Audéo PFE
Phonak Audéo PFE offer outstanding clarity and precision; natural, dynamic mids and treble, and decent bass for a single armature in-ear phone. They handle dense, complex music very well. The PFE work well with most acoustic and some electronic music genres, but bassheads might have to look at other alternatives. They're great for sports as well, since they fit very securely. Check out our review.
The Hippo VB (Variable Bass) offers a serious subwoofer for on the go, right in your head. They don’t just deliver generous quantities of punchy, textured bass, but good audio quality over the whole frequency range with decent clarity and exceptional soundstage. Exchangeable bass ports let you customize their sound to your liking. Read our in-depth Hippo VB review.
Soundmagic E10 / E30
The Soundmagic E10 and E30 are basically right in the middle between the Phonak PFE and Hippo VB - not too analytical sounding, not too bass heavy. The E10 provide a bit more bass, the E30 a bit more clarity. Both come with a very fair price tag considering the sound quality they deliver - a great choice for the audio aficionado on a budget. Read our E10 and E30 reviews for more info.