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.
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.
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.
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.
Microsoft released a new version of the Zune software client today. This incremental update brings the version number up to 4.8 and adds support for Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” handsets. The Zune software and services are also available in a wider selection of countries, including Canada and Australia.
Interestingly, Zune Pass has been renamed to Zune Music Pass. Could an all-you-can-eat video subscription service be coming in the near future? We hope so. A video subscription service has been rumored for a long time, and it would make the Zune service even more compelling on the PC, Zune devices, Windows Phone, and Xbox.
The Zune software should automatically prompt users for an update, but users can start the download immediately by going to Settings > Software > General and selecting Check for Updates. The new software client can also be obtained directly from the Microsoft Download Center.
Microsoft continues to be on a roll with the Zune HD apps. The latest update rivals the one in early July, featuring nine brand new apps and a few nifty updates.
Calendar Matchbox | Utilities
Check your calendar and make appointments with Zune HD Calendar!
ColorSpill 2Play Mobile | Games ColorSpill is a colorful twist on a classic game concept! The goal of this game is to fill the entire board with a single color, and to do so in as few steps as possible. A quick game which is addictive yet enduring, ColorSpill can be played for minutes or hours and is amazingly simple, yet incredibly fun! See if you can complete the board in the allowed number of steps, then challenge yourself to beat your best!
Decoder Ring Babaroga | Games If Sudoku and Crosswords had a baby, this would be it! Decode the symbols on the crossword grid and bind them to letters on the Ring to make meaningful horizontal and vertical words on the crossword grid.
Babaroga | Entertainment Doodle to your heart’s content with Fingerpaint! Try multiplayer for a fun guessing game!
Babaroga| Games Twist your mind in this exciting sliding picture puzzle game! Try your hand in multiplayer!
To the surprise of many people, Zune Originals closed its doors at the beginning of July. The service offered customized Zune devices in a variety of colors engraved with unique artwork, the customer’s Xbox LIVE Avatar, or a few lines of text. Many orders also came with a free AC adapter. Zune Originals, originally launched on November 13, 2007, was one of the services that set Zune apart from the competition.
But all things eventually come to an end. Microsoft never released figures, but sales of the customized devices were likely lower than the Redmond-based software giant had hoped. Many of the customizations were free of charge, but some cost as much as $25. That, combined with the longer wait time and full retail price, made purchasing a stock Zune device from one of Microsoft’s retail partners a cheaper and faster alternative.
The closure of Zune Originals, however, does not mean that the Zune service is on its way out. Zune is an ecosystem, not a device. Dave McLauchlan, the Senior Business Development Manager for Zune, has made it very clear that “this year’s Zune hardware [is] Windows Phone.”
In fact, portable music players on the whole seem to be on the decline. Wired recently published an article questioning if the iPod might be on its deathbed. Sales have fallen in recent years, with analysts predicting a decrease of 7.2% over the last few months. Apple, like Microsoft, might be preparing to move customers over to its smartphone platform.
It has been a good week for Zune HD owners. The Redmond-based software giant released nine new apps for its media player on Friday, in addition to five updated ones.
Microsoft surprised device owners on Wednesday by releasing a firmware update for the Zune HD. The new firmware, version 4.5 (114), does not include any new features. Rather, it fixes an issue with fraudulent security certificates in Internet Explorer. Microsoft started rolling out a similar update for Windows Phone in early May.
Comodo, a Certificate Authority and leading global trust, accidentally validated nine certificates in March without thoroughly validating the applicant’s identity. The certificates, which have since been revoked, are for Windows Live, Google, Gmail, Yahoo, Skype, Mozilla, and “Global Trustee.” More details can be found in Microsoft’s Security Advisory.
The last Zune HD firmware update, version 4.5 (109), was released on April 5, 2010. Microsoft has chosen to focus its efforts on Windows Phone, but the software giant has continued to support the Zune HD over the years.
Microsoft is conducting a study to find out how customers use their Zune Pass. The study will be held on Friday, July 8, 2011 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.
The information Microsoft collects will “help drive the next generation of Microsoft services and products.” Microsoft will also compensate attendees with “a choice of new Microsoft software, hardware or games from a list of [Microsoft's] current most popular titles.”
Those interested in participating in the study should send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the requested information. Don’t forget to put “Zune” in the subject.
1. Name/Phone Number:
3. Are you a monthly subscriber to Zune Pass?
4. How frequently do you watch movies online on your computer/console (Hulu, Netflix, Zune, etc.)?
5. How often do you make online purchases with a debit or credit card?
Based on the above information, it sounds like Microsoft might be considering an expanded Zune Pass. Maybe movie and TV content will be included in future subscriptions? Of course, this is pure speculation on our part. If you’re in the Seattle area, we highly recommend participating in the study.
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.