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All posts tagged "international"

Friday, August 26, 2011

Zune Client Updated, Ready for Mangoey Goodness

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Software" @ 12:00 PM


"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."

Hot and fresh, the Zune 4 .8 update is out with support for the new generation of Windows Phone 7.5 (a.k.a. Mango) phones, and bumps up the number of supported languages in the software to 22 languages. The software is available to download in 39 countries, but the confusing array of international availability hasn't been remedied much in this release. There were signs a few weeks ago of the Marketplace expanding to countries beyond US and Western Europe but they're conspicuously absent in this release (although they should still be coming soon). Also added is 48-hour movie rentals, a streamlined update and sync/backup experience, and an option to see what apps are compatible with your phone before you buy them. In all a relatively minor update but certainly welcome to Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" users.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Zune Marketplace Semi-Live in Canada, Official soon?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 01:45 PM


"So as you now know, traces of the Canadian music Marketplace have shown up a few times quite late at night. This time though, I was able to pull a digital “stakeout” and dig a bit deeper into the availability. As I had previously posted, purchases and individual artist pages were unavailable and would throw an error message back to me, yielding nothing usable or interesting. Last night at 11:24 pm I tried a search for The Bird and the Bee and to my surprise, it showed up with a picture and the artist’s albums available on the Marketplace. Before the network went back down I clicked on a song that I wanted to purchase and viola! It worked! No error message telling me that those services “are not available in my region.” The song downloaded without error and I have officially purchased my first song through the Zune Marketplace."

While Zune users in the U.S. have had the ability to buy and rent music, movies, and TV shows for as long as they've been offered on the Marketplace, international users (like our own Jason Dunn, from Canada) have generally been treated like second-class citizens, gaining access several years late or not at all. The situation was fixed somewhat in 2009 with the introduction of Movies and TV shows to Canada, U.K., France, Italy, and others, but still no music store. This seems to be changing, as Zunited's Josh Martin noticed that the Marketplace was often live in Canada during the night, an indication of them testing the service for a possible upcoming launch. That he was able to search for and purchase music is definitely a good sign of an international launch, but it seems a bit odd they'd flip the switch to allow public users before making an official announcement. Here's hoping we hear something soon. The Marketplace needs to go international. And fast.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Windows Phone 7 Feature Availability Matrix, A.K.A. The Confusing Mess

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone Articles & Resources" @ 12:08 PM


"Windows Phone 7 is available in many different countries across the world, but where you live depends on how much of the experience you are able to get. The 3 major features on the Windows Phone revolve around availability of online services and they are the Zune Marketplace, Xbox Live and Bing Local search. Microsoft has not made each of these 3 services available in every country that they are launching Windows Phone in and therefore have created a mess of what services are available on the phone in each country (with some countries even having partial access to some services)."

Although I'm enjoying using Windows Phone 7 for the most part, I start to get an angry twitch whenever I stop to think about how fractured the product experience is for people outside the USA. This isn't anything new - I've ranted about this on Zune Thoughts for years - but the core problem is still the same. If someone wants to buy a Windows Phone in Canada, they can't buy music from the Zune Marketplace. What kind of sense does that make then for them to use the Zune desktop software to manage their phone and media collection, but not be able to buy new music - and that's not even the Zune Pass, that's any music at all from Zune. I've heard for years how hard it is to negotiate rights in every country, etc., but at the end of the day it has to happen or the product isn't going to succeed. And the consumer doesn't care about what's hard or what's easy; they want a product that works for them. If Microsoft can't provide that, they'll go with someone that will.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CNet Matches Up Zune Pass and Spotify

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 08:50 PM


"If you're not ensnared in the bear trap that is iTunes, and you own a phone that doesn't have a lower case 'i' at the start, you might be wondering what to do about music. With Windows Phone 7 launching this week, Microsoft has finally brought its Zune store to the UK, and with it, the streaming and download service Zune Pass. Spotify is well established in the UK, with a multi-tier service that offers music for free -- ad supported -- and extra services if you're prepared to cough up £10 per month for its most feature-packed option. It's £1 more than Zune, and you don't get ten free downloads like you do with Microsoft's version, which is a shame. Let's have a look at both offerings and try to determine which one is worthy of your monthly subscription."

CNet's Crave UK is an awesome source for music tech news, and they always bring flair to their reviews and writeups. This time they're comparing subscription services Zune, Spotify, and Napster. If that second name looks unfamiliar to those in the US, it's because at the moment Spotify is strictly limited to customers in Europe. My friends who have used the service swear by it, and it's easy to see why the free/cheap unlimited streaming service is easy to love. At the same time, the Zune pass has made strides with web access, smart DJ, and of course the Zune Social over the last few years. If you happen to live in the UK and are looking for a subscription service, definitely give the article a read.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zune Pass Heading Across the Pond?

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Media" @ 05:30 AM


"Thanks to tipster Greg, who has managed to sign up for a trial subscription to Zune Pass in the UK (although it doesn’t work yet), it looks like the “all you can eat” service may be coming soon to the UK. Along with the Trial Pass option, it looks like Zune Pass in the UK will cost £8.99/mo, with a 3 mo. subscription costing £26.97/mo."

An intrepid reader of LiveSide discovered a tantalizing yet inevitable detail on the UK Zune Pass website; It looks like Zune Pass will be coming to the UK sooner than we thought. This is an important first step for laying the groundwork of an actual strategy for WinPhone7 in the UK and overseas, and hopefully we'll begin to see more progress in the coming months. It's important to note that while the site allowed the tipster to register for a free trial, he wasn't able to log in and download music just yet. Though commenter Greg brought up Rafael Rivera's Zune Features Unlocker script to re-enable Marketplace, Channels, and Apps within the Zune software, which may have helped.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why Isn't The Zune Launched Internationally Yet?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 05:00 PM

First, some background on this problem. Here's what I said in my analysis of the iPod announcements:

"iTunes is in 23 countries. The Zune Marketplace is in one. Microsoft's US-centric approach with the Zune is maddening...I thought there was some light at the end of the tunnel when they launched the Zune in Canada last year, but we never got the Zune Marketplace here, and now the devices being sold here are being killed off. "Disaster" is a good word for how well the Zune launch went in Canada. Between the Zune HD being US-only at launch, and all of the IP-based geographic blocking madness that the Zune software and Web site does, it's like the Zune team is doing everything they can to alienate everyone in the world outside the US."

In the resulting discussion from the post, the issue of this US-centric approach to the Zune was brought up several times, and I floated this theory:

"Apple was the first company to negotiate big, international music distribution deals, and way back then most of the music labels probably though Apple would fail, or at best only be mildly successful. So they said "Sure, 99 cents sounds fine as long as the bit rate sucks." Fast-forward, and iTunes is massively successful. We've watched as the record labels pressured Apple for variable pricing year after year, trying to re-assert control over their music. They finally got it. The labels don't like all the power that Apple has, so here's my theory: they're making it very hard, if not impossible, for the Zune guys to get the same sort of deal that Apple has. They're trying to exert control over the Zune deal in a way they wish they could have done with the Apple deal years ago.

Witness the $1 that Universal demanded Microsoft pay them for every Zune sold. We're talking POWER STRUGGLE here people. Maybe that's one reason why Microsoft can't accomplish now what Apple did years ago - the record labels are more aware of what they want to control.

Second reason? Maybe Microsoft feels that the Zune Pass is SO important that they can't/won't launch Zune Marketplace without it. It's quite integral to the Zune experience - many new Zune features rely on the customer having a Zune Pass - so maybe Microsoft isn't launching in new markets unless that market includes the Zune Pass. I think this is a bit silly - not everyone wants a Zune Pass - but maybe it's another reason? These are just my theories." Read more...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Few More Details About International Release

Posted by Adam Krebs in "Zune Hardware" @ 05:30 PM


"Up until now, the portable media player and its online iTunes Store equivalent, Zune Marketplace, have only been available in the US. From early Autumn, however, a revised service, Zune Video, will be available on Xbox Live in the US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Ireland and Spain (with more countries coming aboard later). Xbox 360 owners in these territories will be able to go online and access video content and play it via their console. A variety of access options will be available, including instant streaming, download to rent and download to own. However, no Zune portable music players will be launched outside of the US - at least not yet. This is about the online service only."

It's still fairly difficult to determine what Microsoft's strategy around an international release will be. So far they've been tight-lipped about their specific plans with regards to launching the Zune services outside of North America or Western Europe, and even the Zune HD doesn't look like it'll make it outside of the US. This seems like a poor strategy, and one I really hope they fix before the HD launches in the fall.

Monday, November 19, 2007

An International Zune User's Guide (Updated)

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM

This article has been updated as of April 2010 to include information on the Zune HD.

The world is a big place, full of people who love gadgets. When a company decides to release a piece of technology in a single country rather than a world-wide release, it never stops determined people from getting the technology. Like a modern-day Robin Hood, eBay is the primary conduit for re-distributing technology marvels from the "haves" to the "have-nots" (profit for the eBay seller is the motive, however). The Zune HD is one such product, released only in the US of A so far. I happen to live in Canada, and can't buy the Zune in my country, or use much of the online functionality - not without a little creativity that is. Welcome to the International Zune User's Guide: everything you need to know about being one of those clandestine folks acquiring and using a Zune HD in a country where Microsoft doesn't officially support you. Everything in this article is from the perspective of someone who lives in Canada, so there may be slight variations depending on where you are in the world.

Purchasing the Product

So you want to buy that shiny new Zune HD, only no retailer or online store in your country carries it. This is probably one of the easier problems to solve: find someone that will ship it to your country. The #1 place to look is eBay, because private sellers are often willing to ship elsewhere in the world in return for a healthy profit. This means you should expect to pay more than retail once all of the final shipping charges are calculated. If you live in Canada like I do, you're in luck: many US-based sellers will ship to Canada. Be wary of inflated shipping charges, though that's likely going to be the price you'll pay for getting it to you. Unfortunately I've seen many Zune HD ads where the seller will not ship outside North America: you'll have to search for sellers that are willing to ship to Canada/Europe/Asia/etc.

Figure 1: Mmm...the tasty Zune HD that Microsoft doesn't want you to buy.

Also be prepared to pay some sort of duty/import tax depending on where you live. If you happen to know someone who lives in the USA, this is the far better route: get them to buy if for you at retail, and ship it to you. You'll get the cheapest possible price overall, and your friend can mark the package with a lower-than-retail price. In Canada, if a product comes in via courier (UPS, FedEx, etc.) and the value is less than $20 CND, there's no brokerage fee. If the value is equal to $20 CND, the brokerage fees start at around $25 and go up from there. Have your friend mark the product as a "not for resale product sample", put a value of $10 on it, and you should be able to receive it without paying anything extra. If the product comes into Canada via the USPS (United States Postal Service), there are no brokerage fees regardless of the price listed: you'll just be paying GST and likely a $5 processing fee.

Zune Marketplace

OK, so you've got the hardware: now what? The Zune HD works great with all the music and content you have on your hard drive, but one of the strengths of the Zune HD(and the iPod for that matter) is that you can access huge online catalogs of music. The problem is, you can't buy those tracks if you live outside the USA. You can't even see the Marketplace tab in the software if your location is set to anything other than USA! It took me a lot of trial and error to figure this out, but I've figured it all out so you don't have to. If you have a Microsoft Passport account (Windows Live ID) associated with an Xbox Live account, it will have your credit card billing profile. You won't be able to use this account with the Zune Marketplace because the Zune Marketplace blocks purchases from credit cards that have non-US billing addresses. Every time I've tried I get an error stating that "Your credit card information is not valid. Please verify and try again." No amount if re-trying will get it accepted in my experience.

Figure 2: The Zune Marketplace that Microsoft doesn't want you to see or use.

The points you might have in your Xbox Live account won't be accessible to you in the Zune Marketplace - in fact, with the new Zune software when I tried to sign in with my "real" Passport account (the one associated with my Xbox Live account) it wouldn't even allow me to sign in, claiming that the "Zune Marketplace was unavailable". As you can tell, the Zune team has done almost everything in their power to block non-US based Zune owners from accessing Zune marketplace content. But where there's a will, there's a way. Follow these steps to get to near-Zune Marketplace bliss:

  1. Go to Passport.com and register a new Windows Live ID. Use any email address you want. When you're creating your profile, select your home country as the United States of America. Use any US address you want: if you have a sense of irony, use 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA, 98052.
  2. You now have a "clean" Windows Live ID without associated credit card information that can be used in the Zune Marketplace - but you need points to do that. And, not surprisingly, you can't purchase points with a non-US credit card. What you need are Xbox Live Points Cards that are sold in the US. Point cards purchased in other countries are geographically linked to that country and are not compatible with the Zune Marketplace. You have two choices at this point: head over to eBay and purchase point cards from a US-based seller (you may want to confirm there are US-based points). The nice thing here is that many sellers will just email you the point codes, meaning they don't care if you're in Poland or the UK. Or, use that friend in the USA again to buy you a points card.
  3. Once you have the point card codes, open the Zune desktop software and log in with your new Windows Live ID. The software may complain about your location setting for your Windows Live ID not matching the location setting on your computer (see below). You'll need to exit the Zune software, go to your Control Panel > Region and Language > Location, and change the location to United States. Open the Zune desktop software and log back in.
  4. Go into Settings > Account > Redeem Code.
  5. Enter in the Xbox Live Points code(s) you have. Those points will be added to your account.
  6. Now giggle like a school-girl as you witness your account fill with points ready for spending. You can use these points to purchase music or music videos from the Zune marketplace, and they'll download and play back on your Zune without any problem.
  7. When you need more points, just repeat steps #2 through #5 again. If you're planning on buying a lot of music, you should probably purchase a few blocks of 4000 points (which cost around $60 USD at retail).

Figure 3: The error screen you'll see if your computer location doesn't match the Live ID location.


Monday, April 9, 2007

Zune.net Going International Soon?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Sites & Resources" @ 08:30 PM

A keen-eyed Zune Thoughts reader noticed something when he visited Zune.net, the official Microsoft Zune site: rather than resolving to www.zune.net like it used to do, it now resolves to www.zune.net/en-US/. The en-US is Microsoft's method of language coding indicating that it's the English USA site - and that can only mean one thing: they're inching closer to international releases of the product in localized languages. How soon are we talking here? It's hard to say, but having work with Microsoft over the years I will say that they're known more for last-minute execution rather than being months ahead of schedule - so I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a summer release of the Zune in one or more markets.

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