Zune Thoughts - Daily News, Views, Rants and Raves

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All posts tagged "apps"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Zune HD is Dead. Long Live the Zune HD!

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 11:22 AM

There have been a few updates in the world of Zune over the past week or so.

First, Microsoft has discontinued Zune Originals. That's right, no more custom Zune HDs are available for order. I did a little eye-roll when this happened, because I wanted a 64 GB Zune HD but was waiting for the price to drop a little more. Looks like I waited too long! The Zune Originals Web site says to go look for a Zune HD at Best Buy or Wal-mart, but good luck with that. Zune all but died at retail a long time ago.

In the same week, the Zune team released nine new Zune HD apps, along with updates for a few older apps. Anythingbutipod has the full breakdown on the new apps. I'm in Canada, and despite the announcement two full months ago about the Zune HD apps coming to Canada, I'm still seeing this ugly error when I try to browse the Zune HD apps in the marketplace:

Lastly, there's software update for the Zune HD that takes it from 4.5 Build 109 to 4.5 Build 114. I have no idea what it adds or changes, because Microsoft doesn't release changelogs about the update.

It baffles me as to why Microsoft continues to release apps for a product they've ignored and marginalized in an epic way. I mean, what's the point?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Zune HD Apps Now Available to Canadians...Or Not?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 09:12 AM


The news came out a few days ago that the Zune HD apps were going to be available to Canadians - this has been something that has irked me for a while, because the process has worked like this for me in order to get apps: signing out of my Canadian Live ID, exiting the Zune software, changing the Windows 7 region to USA, starting up the Zune software, signing in with my USA Live ID, grabbing the apps, then reversing the above procedure before I can get back to it tracking my music.

It put a smile on my face when I heard this news, but that smile turned upside down when I tried to access it and got the above error. This is the same error I've been seeing since getting the Zune HD back in 2009. I exited the app...same problem. I logged out and logged back in with my Live ID...same problem.

I tried to get confirmation from someone on the Zune team over Twitter yesterday that this feature was actually in place and working, but haven't heard back yet...so I'm not sure if this is a unique bug on my end, or this is a case of an announced feature that hasn't been turned on yet. Any other Canadian Zune HD owners gotten this to work yet?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Email Client for Zune HD Now Available, Plus New Game

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 09:08 PM

I can't be bothered right now to jump through the inane hoops that the Zune team demands for me to grab these new apps - signing out of my Canadian Live ID, exiting the Zune software, changing the Windows 7 region to USA, starting up the Zune software, signing in with my USA Live ID, grabbing the apps, then reversing the above procedure - but according to Zunited, there's an email application, a tower-defence style game called BBQ Battle, and an updated Facebook app. Go grab 'em if they sound interesting and report back.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Zune HD Apps Showing Up Today

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 02:25 PM


Some new apps coming your way today - Zune Reader, Album Shuffle, and Penalty. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: The apps are ready for download where I am, so I've snagged them, but I can't share screenshots because the screenshots are blank in the Marketplace. It's weird.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Zune HD Games & Apps Released

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 11:56 AM

Last week, a series of new games and app updates were released to the Zune Marketplace for your Zune HD:

  • Snowball
  • Finger Physics
  • Tiki Totems
  • A Beanstalk Tale
  • Alarm Clock
  • Facebook (Updated)
  • Twitter (Updated)

For anyone keeping track, that's 27 games and 12 communication/entertainment/other - for a grand total of 39 apps. My general feeling is, why bother? I don't think 39 free apps are going to sway people who are looking for a device with apps - they're going to go for an iPod Touch. It's nice that they're all free, but in the end, I'd prefer to see effort spend on the device and desktop software that would improve upon the things that we bought a Zune HD for in the first place: media consumption.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Remotive Turns Your WP7 Device Into A Media Center Remote Control

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Windows Phone Software" @ 04:30 PM


"If you've been looking for a way to easily control your PC's music collection with your new Windows Phone 7 handset, have a look at the Remotive app created by Sharkfist Software. The $1.99 app allows you to remotely navigate your music collection on your Windows Media Center PC (requires the installation of Remotive Server for Windows Vista/7). With this app, users can browse by album/artist/album artist, select music, and see what's currently playing. A future update will bring remote volume control."

Remotive looks to be an awesome and easy-to-use Windows Media Center remote application for your Windows Phone 7 device. With it, you can control your music anywhere in the house--or even all over the world--from your home machine to your handset. It's attractive and fits with the Windows Phone 7 / Zune aesthetic, and it all seems to be fairly snappy. A server application (free from the developer's website) installs to your Windows Vista or 7 PC and handles all of the setup for you, with a few extra tweaks needed if you want to use Remotive over your cellular data network. Albums display with thumbnails and can be grouped by artist, and just as in the Music app a long press will give you options to play or add to quick list. Volume control and search features are coming in a future release. For more info, James from the Digital Media Zone gives a good walkthrough in this YouTube video. The app is $1.99, but a free trial which limits control to the first 50 albums/artists will give you a sense of what the app can do.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Zune HD Apps Availabile

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 11:43 AM

Hey Zune Thoughts readers, I'm phoning this one in since I'm frantically working on something else right now: if you fire up the Zune Marketplace, you'll find a few new apps: Drum Machine (yes, it's a software drum machine), a word game called Tiles, and a game called Hairball. There's also supposed to be an updated version of the Windows Live Messenger app, though I don't see it yet in the Marketplace.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Progress with ZDK

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 08:30 PM


Despite a few new apps for the Zune HD, Microsoft is still lagging vastly behind Apple's iOS in sheer number of apps available for the platform. Sure the XNA framework has been available for about a year now (and longer on the older models), but the severe limitations on running code have kept developers from unlocking the device's full potential. There was hope when, in April, ZuneBoards hacker itsnotabigtruck released OpenZDK, a toolkit which allows developers to access the same low-level APIs as first-party Microsoft titles like Audiosurf and PGR. There's still no Cydia-like central repository for app so app installs are still strictly a tethered affair, but yes it plays Doom. Here are a few standouts: Read more...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Windows Live Messenger, and Three New Games, Make it to the Zune HD

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 04:06 PM

The slow but steady trickle of Zune HD apps continues; if you look in the Zune Marketplace, you'll find a brand new Windows Live Messenger application ready for download. You'll also find three new games: WordMonger, Dr. Optics Light Lab, and Castles and Canons. If you're a Zune HD customer, this added value is pretty cool. If you're a Zune fan like me though, the app strategy on the Zune HD continues to be a frustrating puzzle. Screen shots of all three games after the break. Read more...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Two More Zune HD Apps Trickle Out

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 11:22 AM

Hey there, Zune HD owners! You now have access to two more apps in the Zune Marketplace: Animalgrams, a word game, and MSN Money, a personal finance app. Basically /msn Money is a stock ticker app with a few extras added in. About two months ago we saw another two apps, so at the rate this is going, the Zune HD app catalog should hit 100 apps by 2017 or so. Hooray. More images after the break. Read more...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Two New Zune HD Games, Two Apps Updated

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 01:59 PM

The slow train of Zune apps just keeps on truckin': two new apps have just been added to the Zune Marketplace: Hearts and Spades. Also, both the Twitter and Facebook apps have been updated with landscape keyboard support. This is all well and good, but where's the YouTube app? That's the #1-with-a-bullet app request I get asked about over and over again. YouTube matters Zune team; old games that my grandma used to play? Not so much. Read more...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The State of Subscription Services, As Outlined by a Seattlite

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 08:00 PM


"Months later, I was sitting at Café Presse reading an article that compared the songwriter Holly Miranda to Nina Simone. Normally, I would have added Miranda to my [LP] look-for list. Since I was in a wi-fi hot spot, I turned to my Zune, browsed the collection, and downloaded records from Miranda's former band, the Jealous Girlfriends, and a refresher course on Nina Simone. The albums—and any subsequent tracks I picked up that month—were all covered through Zune Pass."

Seattle Weekly's Chris Kornelis shares a recent anecdote with his positive Zune Pass experience and an overview of the subscription landscape. If you can wade through the thick hipster smarm on the first page, it's actually a decent read. And while not heaping praise on the Zune device, he seems to come away with a generally good attitude about the experience. He also discusses the competition from fellow Seattle company Rhapsody and what the future holds with Android and iPhone apps. Like Kornelis, more and more I'm realizing that "owning" music (downloading a la carte) isn't as important as I once thought. Tastes change, collections get too large, and computers get upgraded. Having access to thousands of songs on-demand is definitely the direction of the market. The question remains which company will lead us there.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three New Zune Apps Now Available for Download

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 02:09 PM

And just like that, blam, we have three new Zune HD apps: two games, and the stop watch app. Labyrinth, pictured above, should be quite fun - I've had similar games on my HTC Windows phones and they're a fun test of physical dexterity. All three apps are now available in the Zune Marketplace, though it did take me five tries to download the Labyrinth game (I kept getting a server error message). Two more screen shots after the break. Read more...

New Zune HD Apps Coming Today...

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 01:26 PM

Apparently later today the Zune team will be releasing three new apps for the Zune HD: Solitaire, Labyrinth (presumably a game, unless it helps you find your way out of mazes), and a stop watch application. Nice for Zune HD owners to get more functionality, but it's still no substitute for having a marketplace where developers can build and sell apps for the Zune HD.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Won't Kill Zune HD... Yet

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 07:57 PM


"[W]ith the impending release of the Windows Phone 7 Series, which will include full Zune HD functionality in its "Music + Video" hub, I've begun to wonder if Microsoft will phase out the Zune as a standalone music player. Here's one clue: Microsoft developer Michael Klucher on Tuesday put up a blog post about the upcoming XNA Game Studio 4.0. Thus far, XNA Game Studio has been primarily used to develop casual games for the Xbox 360 and, more recently, to create games for the Zune HD. ... Long story short, Klucher confirmed that XNA Game Studio 4.0 will support game development on Windows Phone 7 Series phones, but not on the Zune HD."

Well that's a kicker. Microsoft really isn't going to roll out the Zune HD app plan like they said they would? It's hard to see a silver lining in what is essentially Microsoft cutting off any hopes of a Zune HD app store, at least for this generation. Microsoft's Klucher confirmed that current XNA 3.1 code will continue to work with the device, but the features in XNA 4.0, like 3D APIs, Xbox Live integration, and the cool cross-platform Windows/Xbox/WinPhone7 game porting won't be coming. There's talk of a Zune HD2 in the works, which would follow Apple's lead in providing an experience similar to WinPhone7 without a cellular radio (i.e. iPhone to iPod Touch), but Microsoft has made no announcements yet. Personally, I prefer having a dedicated device for music and video, rather than feeling like they're tacked on as an application which needs to be loaded each time I search for a song, but it appears that device convergence is the direction the market is heading.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Microsoft Doesn't Want Apps for the Zune HD?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 12:38 PM


"The current version of the XNA Game Studio suite (3.1) allows developers to build games that can run on Windows PCs, Xbox 360 and Zune media player devices. Version 4.0 is going to support Windows PCs, Xbox 360 consoles and Windows Phone 7 Series phones (but not the Zune HD), according to a blog post by Michael Klucher, Lead Program Manger for the XNA Development Platform."

OK, this is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. What I thought was going to happen was that when the Windows phone 7 ecosystem kicked off at the end of this year, we'd see a Windows Marketplace for Mobile that would address both the Windows phone 7 users and the Zune HD users. In fact, the millions of Zune HDs out there would serve as a good base for developers to code for. Instead, it's looking like XNA Game Studio Suite 4.0 isn't going to allow the Zune HD as a target platform...so now I'm completely confused. Microsoft doesn't want apps for the Zune HD? Or their plan is to continue the painfully slow process of building their app catalog one app at a time, all developed internally?

Or is it that second-generation Zune HD (presumably coming out in the fall of this year) will have a bigger screen running at WVGA resolution (800 x 480) and essentially be a Windows phone 7 without the phone components? And that's what Microsoft wants developers to code for - but not the Zune HD. If so, that sort of sucks - that leaves all the current Zune HD owners out in the cold in terms of apps. Is that really Microsoft's plan? What do you think?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Zune HD Facebook App is Finally Working for Me

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 12:04 PM

As of last night, the Zune HD Facebook app was still busted for me - updates not loading, news feeds not loading, etc. This morning, surprisingly, it all started to work - without a new version of the app. That tells us that it wasn't a problem with the application itself - which I guessed at - but instead a problem with Facebook itself, or something between Facebook and the Zune HD application. The Zune team has made some vague statements about Zune and Facebook engineers addressing the problem, but they've provided no details about what actually went wrong. Regardless of whose fault it was, or why this happened in the first place, it's unfortunate to see the Zune HD getting more bad press related to apps - and this is the second botched app release in a row now, after the Twitter curse-word blow-up (which most people made into a bigger deal than it really was).

Ultimately this highlights again how broken the Zune team's approach to apps is: they can't continue to release apps one by one, relying on internal resources to build up their app selection. The only thing that makes any sense is to open up the Zune HD to third-party developers, give them the ability to make money in a marketplace, and let them have it it. I suspect we'll hear some good news on this front when MIX10 happens in a couple of weeks - the root problem here is that Zune HD app plan was out of sync with the Windows phone 7 series app plan, and the only thing that makes any sense is for them to come together into one big happy "develop for our two device type" family. Guess we'll have to wait and see!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Use Your Zune HD as a Level For Household Projects

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 01:44 AM


Sure the official apps for the Zune HD are nice—like the newly released Twitter client for instance—but what about the indie developers who have made cool stuff despite lacking a reasonable deployment mechanism? Let's take a look at one such app, Spirit Level, by "Rogue" (from what I gather on his Twitter page, his real name is Matt). This one uses the HD's onboard accelerometer to generate the look and feel of a real bubble level, with a couple of different viewing options to visualize the device's orientation. Right now the only download is the source code, which may make it difficult to install unless you know what you're doing (or can follow this tutorial.) Give it a try and let us know of any other apps you find useful in the comments.

Tags: , apps, xna

Thursday, September 17, 2009

First Homebrew XNA Apps Coming Out, Distribution Model or No

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 07:20 PM


"[W]e are pleased to announce the immediate availability of XNA Game Studio 3.1 Zune Extensions to support Zune HD. This add-on for XNA Game Studio 3.1 adds the following functionality to the product: [1] The ability to target and develop for the Zune HD media player. [2] The addition of new Touch APIs to the XNA Framework for use on the Zune HD. [3] The addition of new Accelerometer APIs to the XNA Framework for use on the Zune HD."

Even though there's still no word on an official apps distribution platform for Zune HD, intrepid developers can still make use of some of the device's cooler features using the same XNA framework that worked on the older Zunes. Even just a few days in, developers are already starting to try out the multi-touch and accelerometer APIs like in this etch-a-sketch program (video below). Sure, it'd be nice to see some real apps available for purchase through the Marketplace, but for now I'm just happy the device is still somewhat open. Other downsides include the lack of HD-specific graphics libraries (everything's still 2D SpriteBatch-based, so no epic FPS's yet) or internet-aware niceneties.

Tags: games, apps, xna, zune hd

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