The Zune HD is dead. Long live the Windows Phone

Microsoft has finally made things clear about the future of the Zune and Zune HD media players. According to the Redmond software giant Windows Phone will be the focus of its mobile music and video strategy. Here’s official statement:

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.

Continue reading The Zune HD is dead. Long live the Windows Phone →

Windows Phone 7 Mac connector finally out of beta and available in iTunes

Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 Mac connector (and Zune HD connector too) is now finally out of beta and available for download directly from Apple’s iTunes application store (for OSX).

Windows Phone 7 Connector is a simple, easy-to-use application designed to sync your favorite media files from your Mac, with your Windows Phone 7 or Zune HD. You can also sync photos and videos you captured on your phone with your Mac, and when needed, update your Windows Phone 7 software.

Continue reading Windows Phone 7 Mac connector finally out of beta and available in iTunes →

Next generation Windows Phone and Zune devices to be discussed at MIX11 ?

Here’s something that totally missed a couple of days ago (thanks to Twitter); the MIX 11 website describes Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore as being “responsible for the design and software product definition of forthcoming generations of Windows phones and Zune devices“. Zune devices ? So Microsoft is still working on a new Zune HD2  device or another form of Zune device that isn’t a Windows Phone (which is a Zune device)…like tablet/slate, Zune Pad ? Anyway, only time will tell but it can also possibly be mistake or poorly worded description (the post has a Zune tag associated to it so it definitely looks like “Zune Devices” was meant to be in there..).

Continue reading Next generation Windows Phone and Zune devices to be discussed at MIX11 ? →

Windows Phone 7 Review

It’s now time to take an in-depth look at Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system now that the project has finally seen the light of the day after years of tumultuous developments. This review is quite long so I’m first going to give you a quick history reminder about the development of the OS followed by description of the product’s features and my opinion of it.

Officially unveiled back in February 2010 during MWC in Barcelona, Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft last attempt to be relevant in the mobile market after the slow demise of Windows Mobile 6.X that took place during past few years. Contrary to popular belief Windows Mobile as we knew it wasn’t a bad OS, but it greatly suffered from Microsoft’s total lack of support and interest in its product and the only reason why it managed to survived this long was because OEMs like HTC poured R&D and money into developing alternative UIs to compete with Apple’s iPhone and later, Google’s Android. What many people don’t know is that Windows Phone 7’s development initially started back in 2004 when it was called Windows Mobile 7 (code named Photon) but because of a lack of motivation, foresight and some relatively stupid decisions taken by the Redmond company (like the Danger acquisition that later gave birth to the Kin devices) the development was a total mess and in Fall 2008 Microsoft finally decided to stop all ongoing Photon / Windows Mobile 7 development and re-start everything from scratch with a new team composed of the developers of the Zune media player and Windows Media Center.

Continue reading Windows Phone 7 Review →

Windows Live Messenger for Zune HD released

Looks like Windows Phone 7 isn’t the only platform getting Windows Live Messenger this fall. Microsoft has just released the Zune HD version of the messaging application on the Marketplace. As you can see in the screenshot above the application looks diffrent from the WP7 version revealed yesterday. The application apparently features FaceBook,Flickr and MySpace integration. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be widely availalbe yet (I can’t see it yet in the Marketplace).

Continue reading Windows Live Messenger for Zune HD released →

Mysterious Microsoft hardware teased on Twitter

Microsoft has just posted a mysterious picture of a yet unannounced Microsoft branded hardware on Twitter. From the looks of it this could be anything: a trackpad, a new Zune, a phone (kinda looks like the back of an HD2) but this is all speculation at this point. Don’t get your hopes up thought as this will probably something in line with what the company currently sells so I guess that this will probably be some sort of trackpad or Wacom style inking tablet especially after reading what was said:

Here’s a hint for you: “Don’t be so touchy…flat is where it’s at.” We’ll share another glimpse of our upcoming product with you tomorrow.
Here’s your second clue to our next product release: http://twitpic.com/2baujg . Any guesses as to what it might be?

 
Continue reading Mysterious Microsoft hardware teased on Twitter →

Bing Music coming soon (in a few hours…)

Those of you who live in the US and use Microsoft’s Zune marketplace may have notice that the service was down today for a “scheduled maintenance”. This so called scheduled maintenance is actually the launch of Microsoft’s new Bing Music service later today. Bing Music will allow people to search for an artist or song on Bing and directly get a link to a streaming version of the song and the possibility to purchase this song without having to use anything but the search engine.

Continue reading Bing Music coming soon (in a few hours…) →

Three new Zune HD applications released

Two new games and one stopwatch application have been made available today for the Zune HD on the Zune application marketplace. The first one is a basic Stopwatch application:

The second one is Labyrinth puzzle game similar to HTC‘s Teteer and countless other games on the iPhone/iTouch where you have to use the devices accelerometer to get the ball rolling:

Finally the last game is the famous Solitair card game:

you can download them now for free via the Zune desktop application.

Via: Twitter

OpenZDK lets you develop and install homebrew applications for the Zune HD

OpenZDK has just been released and enables developers to develop homebrew applications/games for the Zune HD and original Zune players. Basically what that means is that the original Zune players and the Zune HD have finally been hacked to make it possible to easly install homebrew application developed in XNA Game Studios 3.1:

This makes it possible to, for the first time, run applications directly on top of the Zune firmware, with full access to everything XNA withheld before.[...]This initial release of OpenZDK is primarily intended to give developers a starting point for building next-generation applications. However, we have published an OpenZDK Quick Start Kit that includes example programs that you can try right now, including a 3D demo that offers a small taste of what hardware-accelerated 3D graphics have to offer.

First you will have to install VS2008 Express edition -> install XNA Game Studio 3.1 & XNA Game Studio 3.1 Zune Extensions -> Adding your Zune to Device Center & Running the Exploit Deployment Tool. Head over to the Wiki page for detailed instructions. Here’s a link to the download page.

Source: ZuneBoards

Microsoft KIN: Tegra APX 2600 on board and worldwide release info

I asked Microsoft if they could tell me which Tegra chipset was used in the KIN handsets and finally got an answer: it’s the Tegra APX 2600. I basically wanted to make sure that it was not the 2500 version (see full KIN specs here). The APX 2600 is indeed the same SoC used in the Zune HD so it should be pretty clear now that the underlying OS used on the KIN handset is closer to the Zune OS than it is to WP7 (which doesn’t use the same Kernel). One has to wonder why Microsoft didn’t announce some kind of A/V connector for the KIN Phones to output HD content bought in the Zune Marketplace orsShot with the 8Mpix camera of the KIN TWO. It would be great if their was a HDMI dock similar to the Zune HD one IMO.

When it comes to world wide availability of the handsets, Microsoft has already announced that Vodafone is set to launch them in Germany,Spain, italy and the UK. Microsoft didn’t ink a deal yet with French operators yet, but they expect/hope to release them this fall. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft is going to deal with the nearly simultaneous launch of Windows Phone 7 and KIN in Europe. The Zune Pass/Marketplace will also officially launch in Europe at the same time. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean the Bing is going out of beta in those countries (expect in the UK where it’s already out of beta), Microsoft told me that the Bing roadmap isn’t tide to the Windows Phone 7 and Kin launch in Europe.

Zune HD 4.5 Update available now


The much anticipated 4.5 Zune HD update is finally available right now. You’ll just have to connect your Zune HDto the Zune desktop software, go to Settings -> Device -> Player Update and you’ll have the option to update your device. Here’s a video of the features in action:

64GB Zune HD announced launching April 12th for $350

Ever since the launch of the Zune HD people have been asking for a 64GB version of the player, today Microsoft is finally announcing it for $350:

We’re excited to share that Zune fans will be able to purchase a new 64GB capacity of the popular Zune HD device for $349.99 starting April 12th through ZuneOriginals.com. By increasing the Zune HD capacity to 64GB, users will be able take up to 16,000 songs, or 20 hours of high definition video from Zune Marketplace, or 25,000 pictures* on the go! Customers will be able to customize their Zune HD 64GB through ZuneOrginals.com, available in their choice of Platinum, Black, Blue, Red, Green, Purple and Magenta colors.

In addition to introducing the new 64GB capacity, we are also reducing the prices of the 16GB and 32GB devices. Starting today, price lists are being distributed to retailers, setting the Estimated Retail Price (ERP) for the Zune 16GB device at $199.99 and the Zune HD 32GB device at $269.99.

With its OLED multi-touch screen, built-in HD radio, HD video out capabilities and Internet browser, Zune HD is a full-function media player which has received accolades from press and consumers. We’ve also announced details of an upcoming firmware update which will add even more features to the device, such as Smart DJ auto-playlists directly on the Zune HD, ability to browse, stream and acquire music from Zune Marketplace on your TV (while the device is connected to a TV set through the A/V dock) and expanded codec support allowing users to play more video formats natively from the device.

We are excited to be offering a great range of storage capacities for the Zune HD at a competitive price point and will be sharing more news on the availability of the 4.5 firmware in the coming days.

*Music estimates based on 128 Kbps WMA files with length of 4 minutes each. Pictures transferred to Zune will be optimized for Zune screen size; video estimates based on 500 Kbps WMV files with 128 Kbps WMA audio tracks.

The only unknown now is what is exactly going to happen to the Zune HD ounce the Windows Phone 7 Series handsets launch later this year? Remember that applications build for WP7 won’t be compatible with the Zune HD  players. Thankfully the release of the upcoming 4.5 firmware update tells us that Microsoft is still support the player…for the time being.

Zune HD 4.5 Firmware update with Xvid, SmartDJ & On-TV Marketplace access coming soon


Microsoft has just issued a press release announcing the imminent release of the v4.5 firmware for the Zune HD players. As reported earlier this new update will bring Xvid / AVI (MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile) support, enabling user to play those videos without any transcoding. The SmartDJ functionality (which was introduced in the Zune desktop software) is finally making an appearance on the player and the ability to access the Marketplace on the TV while being connected with the AV-Dock is also included in this firmware.

It’s been an exciting few months for Zune. We launched the Zune HD device last September which has been receiving press and consumer praise for its OLED screen, HD Radio, HD video out and key music discovery features, which become even more powerful with a Zune Pass subscription. We also expanded the Zune service to additional platforms. We brought Zune video to Xbox LIVE in November, giving consumers access to instant on 1080p HD with 5.1 surround sound and the ability to buy content once and play it on the TV through Xbox LIVE, on the PC through the Zune software and on the go on a Zune device. We also announced last month that Zune will be an integrated feature on Windows Phone 7 Series and we’re looking forward to sharing more details about the Zune experience on Windows Phones in the coming weeks and months.

Earlier this year, we also shared that we’ll be introducing a Zune HD firmware update this spring. We’re excited to be bringing even more features and functionality to Zune users through this update, and wanted to share some additional details around what will be introduced.

- Smart DJ on Zune HD: Zune has always been committed to helping people discover new music. We added “Smart DJ” to the Zune software last fall and now we’re bringing this popular music discovery feature to the Zune HD device. Smart DJ on Zune HD will let you create an instant playlist mix whenever the inspiration strikes direct from your device. Just choose a song or artist from your collection or from the Zune Marketplace catalog and press the Smart DJ icon to build a new mix based on your selection. If you have a Zune Pass music subscription it will pull music from your existing collection and the Zune Marketplace catalog to create the mix. If you don’t have a Zune Pass subscription you can still use Smart DJ to build a playlist from the collection on your device.

- Picks on Zune HD: Picks is another popular music recommendation feature in the Zune software which we’re extending to the Zune HD device. The Picks algorithm analyzes what you listen to and compares that to millions of other Zune users to make personalized recommendations. With this update, you’ll be able to access these automatic recommendations directly on the Zune HD device as well as on your PC.

- Browse and Stream Music from Zune Marketplace on your TV: Using the Zune HD A/V dock, you can connect your Zune HD to your TV to play your favorite videos and music from your device on the big screen. With this software update, you’ll also be able to browse and stream music from Zune Marketplace directly on your TV to find and listen to your favorite music from the comfort of your couch. You can browse New Releases, check out recommendations from your Picks page, search for a specific song or artist, or even create a new Smart DJ playlist on your big screen – a great way to make an instant soundtrack for your next party.

- Expanded Video Codec Support: With expanded support to include MPEG-4 Part 2 Advanced Simple Profile (ASP), which includes Xvid and AVI support, you’ll be able to immediately enjoy a broader range of video content natively on Zune HD – no transcoding required.

The update will be offered as a free download in the next few weeks, and we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available. In the meantime, we wanted to share an image of the Smart DJ feature on the Zune HD device which is attached here; All a user needs to do is press the Smart DJ icon on the far right of the screen to build a new mix based on their favorite music.

Here’s a video of the new features in action:

Just incase you missed it; Windows Phone 7 Series natively supports the following codecs:

Codec Type Decoder Support Container
Audio WAV (PCM, MSADPCM, IMAADPCM, G.711) WAV
Audio MP3 MP3
Audio WMA Lossless ASF (WMA)
Audio WMA Pro ASF (WMA)
Audio WMA Standard v9 ASF (WMA)
Audio AAC-LC (Low Complexity) 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4A
Audio HE-AAC v1 (AAC+) 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4A
Audio HE-AAC v2 (eAAC+) 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4A
Audio Adaptive Multi-Rate Narrow Band (AMR-NB) 3GP, 3G2, MP4
Audio Adaptive Multi-Rate ide Band (AMR-WB) 3GP, 3G2, MP4
Audio Qcelp 3GP, 3G2, MP4
Video WMV (VC-1) – Simple Profile ASF (WMV)
Video WMV (VC-1) – Main Profile ASF (WMV)
Video WMV (VC-1) – Advanced Profile ASF (WMV)
Video WMV v9 ASF (WMV)
Video MPEG-4 Part 2 – Simple Profile 3GP, 3G2, MP4, AVI
Video MPEG-4 Part 2 – Advanced Simple Profile AVI, MP4
Video DivX 4.x/5.x/6.x AVI
Video MPEG-4 Part 10 (MPEG-4 AVC, H.264) – Baseline Profile 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4V
Video MPEG-4 Part 10 (MPEG-4 AVC, H.264) – Main Profile 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4V
Video MPEG-4 Part 10 (MPEG-4 AVC, H.264) – High Profile 3GP, 3G2, MP4, M4V
Video H.263 3GP, 3G2
Images JPEG JPG
Images PNG PNG
Images GIF (both GIF87a and GIF89a) GIF

No Multi-Tasking for 3rd party apps in WP7, no removable storage, no file explorer


Unfortunately Microsoft won’t be able to please everybody with Windows phone 7 Series . The lack of multi-tasking shouldn’t come as a surprise especially given that I (with PPCGeeks) was the first to post the full specs of WP7 more than a month ago (one week before the official announcement, thanks again anonymous tipster..). We all expected this and today Microsoft confirmed it to Mary Jo Foley; third-party apps won’t be able to multi-task but will have the ability to use the push-notification services (just like on the iPhone). This doesn’t really bother me given that I rarely use a task-manager to jump from one app to another. Additionally, the Metro UI and design helps to make the whole UX free of any multi-tasking needs.

But what bothers me is the total lack of file explorer and access to the file system (and build-in storage on the phone). First-off, removable storage cards are out. WP7 devices will come with non-removable Flash memory (minimum 8Gb) and the only way to install an app will be through the Marketplace (enterprise customers will be able to deploy apps without going through the Marketplace). Secondly it looks like the phone’s internal memory will be encrypted (like the Zune HD & iPhone). This means that the only way to transfer data to your phone from the PC will be via the Zune software (you can no longer use your handset as a USB HDD). Also remember that on the Zune HD and iPhone, pictures transferred to the device are always automatically resized and compressed (it’s still not know if this is going to be the case here though).

This is obviously the first release of a new OS and Microsoft has already announced that OTA updates with new features & improvements will be pushed out on a regular basis. My only hope is that Microsoft allows third-party developers to build file explorers (I’m not holding my breath tho..)

Facebook application for the Zune HD finally available


The Zune HD Facebook application is fainally out and available on the Marketplace. The application was originaly expected to be launched at the same time as the Twitter application but was puched back to a later date. From the looks of it this is probably how an “official” FB app would look like on WindowsPhone 7 Series…Head over to the Zune Marketplace to grab it.

- Update Status – Click on the home icon to access the home page from where you can update your status and see the latest activity.
- View Profile – Tap the Profile icon to use this feature. Using this option, you can view your wall, photos, videos and other items.
- View Friends activity – Use the Friends icon in case you want to update yourself with the activities of your contacts.
- View Inbox – Yes, click the inbox icon and read/write/send messages as per your requirement.

Microsoft at MWC 2010

Yesterday I had the chance sit down with to Audrey Zolghadr, Windows Mobile Manager at Microsoft France, to discuss the Windows Phone 7 Series announcement and the company’s future in the mobile space. It wasn’t really an interview given that I knew that I wouldn’t get any answer if I asked question about all the features that were not shown yet. Instead we talked about how much of he UI design inspiration that came from the Zune HD and the fact that what we are seeing here was started only 18 months ago when Joe Belfiore joined the Windows Mobile Team (keep in mind the WM7 development started back in 2005/6).

Continue reading Microsoft at MWC 2010 →

Zune services coming to Windows Mobile Soon?

Old Windows Mobile 7 concept shot

Microsoft pushed a new firmware update for the Zune HD today (version 4.2.202.0) and it didn’t take long forIstartedsomething to dig into it to it to find some clues about what’s exactly new. Here’s what he has found in the USB INF file:

[Microsoft.NTx86]
%Zune.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\MS_COMP_MTPZ
%Zune.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0710
%Zune.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_063E
%Phone.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0640
%Phone.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0641
%Phone.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZUSB, USB\VID_045E&PID_0642
%ZuneIp.DeviceDesc% = ZuneMTPZIP, umb\urn:microsoft-com:device:mtpz:1

; Localizable strings
Msft = “Microsoft”
Zune.DeviceDesc = “Zune”

Phone.DeviceDesc = “Phone”

Long believes that this confirms that a Zune phone is in the making, but given that it cleary says “Zune.Device” and “Phone.Device” (never “Zune.Phone” or “ZunePhone”) I will have to disagree with him here. To me it just looks like the Zune services are now probably finally implemented into Windows Mobile (7?). Let’s wait t’ill MWC next month..

Update: Here’s a list of Vendor IDs, as you can see Microsoft has tons of WinMo devices with IDs even-though they have never manufactured or sold one.

Source: IstartedSomething

Zune HD to get XviD support in next Firmware update

 

According to CNet’s Donald Bell Microsoft is planning to add XviD ( MPEG-4 part 2 Advanced Simple Profile ) video support to the Zune HD in the upcoming Firmware update scheduled to launch this spring. Zune’s SmartDJ feature will also be part of the firmware and Microsoft re-assured him that the Facebook application is going to be launched early this year.

Source: CNet

Twitter now available on the Zune HD


It was announced last night and it’s now finally available for free on the Zune Marketplace. Nothing too fnacy but seems to be great for a 1.0 version. Hopefully this means that we will see more of theses apps from Microsoft heading to Windows Mobile 7 once the two marketplaces are merged together.