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All posts tagged "xbox"

Monday, March 14, 2011

Microsoft Kills Zune Hardware? Its All About the Software!

Posted by Steven McPherson in "Windows Phone Software" @ 04:30 PM


"According to Bloomberg, a "person familiar with the decision" has confirmed that Microsoft won't be producing any new Zune media players, and that the company will instead focus solely on the Zune software that already has a foothold on the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone devices (it's not clear if the name will stick around)."

No confirmation from Microsoft yet, but it appears that Microsoft has decided to pitch the standalone media player hardware in favor of focusing on the software platform that has already been integrated into the wildly successful XBOX and the Windows Phone 7 platforms. Microsoft is said to be working on project "Ventura" that will provide cloud based music and media services to PCs, TVs and mobile devices. Could "Ventura" be part of Microsoft future media strategy?

I love my Zune so this will be a tough one to swallow but since my Windows Phone 7 is able to consume all of the Zune media just as well, I think that most users will be fine. While its not even speculated that Microsoft would discontinued Zune support within the Marketplace, it would be great if Microsoft would partner with outside hardware developers to provide standalone media player integration with the popular Zune service. Keeping the hardware devices "fresh" should still be important to the future media platform strategy. Only time will tell. Hopefully Microsoft will provide more clarity and confirm their future media platform strategy in the coming weeks.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Could Microsoft Be Ditching the Points System?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 04:00 PM


"Xbox Live deserves praise as a service, but being the standard for which other online gaming services are judged means its flaws come under repeated scrutiny -- for good reason. It's why I always find myself asking Microsoft executives a couple of the same questions whenever I'm given the opportunity to sit down with them: why is there a friends cap on Xbox Live and when will the entire service allow me to pay for content in real-world dollar amounts, rather than confusing Microsoft Points?"

Where do you guys stand on the issue of points? I'm not as negative on them as some people - I'm fine paying 800 points for an Xbox Arcade game, largely because I have no frame of reference for the cost. Interestingly, I found points to be very frustrating when deciding to rent SD and HD video downloads - I know how much a DVD or Blu-ray rental costs at my local video store, so having to fire up a Web browser to calculate how much a video downloads costs ticked me off. I like the idea of micro-transactions for game content, but think that it could co-exist alongside all the other content (songs, videos, games) being in dollar amounts. Any changes made to Xbox Live would rippled down to the Zune Marketplace. What's your take?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

College Students: Get Free Stuff from Zune!

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


"There is usually some pretty sweet stuff going on over at the Zune College hangout, and through the end of November (11/30/08 to be exact), there’s something extra-wicked-awesome WinkYou can enter a competition to win a Dell Laptop, an Xbox 360, a Zune, and other cool gear. Oh and with a tagline like “No purchase necessary to enter or win,” what the heck are you still doing here??!?! GO SIGN UP!"

Usually we like to add some clever quip or commentary on the story content, but in this case I think Max has said it all. If you're a college student in need of some cool and FREE gear (and let's be serious, who isn't?), go check out Zune College and register. Oh, and if you're lucky enough to have Zune come visit your campus, you might even be able to get a discount on a few accessories and players. Even though we tend to be broke most of the time, it's good of the Zune team to show some love to us Collegiate folk.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lips Release Date and Details Announced

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 05:00 AM


"Calling all shower singers, rush-hour traffic vocalists, wanna-be rappers, pop princesses and those with a country twang: “Lips,” the highly anticipated singing experience exclusively for Xbox 360 from iNiS Corp., will be available in mid-November 2008. Picture throwing a “Lips” party for your closest friends where everyone sings and grooves to a vast array of music backed by the original music video, lyrics and scoring. Not only can everyone sing along, but “Lips” is the only music video game that comes with two wireless motion-sensitive microphones, allowing the freedom to put on the ultimate performance. Your parties will never be the same!"

Well, I forgot about Lips but this game from iNiS is finally almost here. I know they wanted to get this out for the holiday season but I feel like they really missed the boat. Rock Band 2 is already out and Guitar Hero 4 releases on Sunday. I'm not sure how a game like Lips, which is simply the karaoke portion, can really hope to carve out much of a niche in the market.

It does have some interesting game play modes. Freestyle looks especially promising since it allows you to sing songs from your own collection. I assume this is how the Zune will tie into the game. Given how lackluster the track list is its a good thing that the game allows this. Ultimately, I just can't see myself getting this one. Game Focus has all the details if this one is for you though!

Tags: xbox, lips

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Zune & XBox Integration: Coming Soon?

Posted by David Tucker in "Zune News" @ 06:42 PM


"Marketing director for Zune Jason Reindorp told us that a serious 'step up' in Zune and Xbox 360 integration will happen 'within a year.'"

Gizmodo threw this little comment in almost as an afterthought in their Zune 3G Gears of War hands-on. A heck of an afterthought. This isn't exactly surprising. It was almost sure to happen eventually. But its still good to hear that Microsoft is committed to making this happen sooner rather than later. I'm sure that the fall Xbox 360 update will be the first step.

I think the important thing is to tie the media purchases together. I shouldn't have to buy a movie twice. With the Netflix partnership I have to wonder what sort of options that might open up as well.

Tags: xbox, integration

Monday, September 8, 2008

Microsoft Job Posting Hints at Cross-Platform Zune Environment?

Posted by Rocco Augusto in "Zune News" @ 12:00 AM


"We've heard Microsoft make vague references for some time about a Zune-like experience involving non-Zune devices (Windows Mobile phones, Xboxen), and it looks like they may be making real moves in that direction. A recent job posting from Redmond for a 'Software Development Engineer in Test' calls on someone who 'dream[s] about having a mobile phone based entertainment experience powered by a unified entertainment service across devices such as Zune, Xbox and PC.' Someone, the ad reads, who will, 'create a 'Connected Entertainment' experience, realized through the Zune service, that spans multiple devices such as Zune, Xbox, PC and Mobile phones.'"

When I read this the first thing that pops into my head is "It is about time they started focusing on convergence!" I mean, seriously, how long have we been in the 21st century now? This is basic stuff we were promised whenever someone mentioned the future! This, and flying cars, and we all know those aren't being created anytime soon so why not just give us the one basic thing that is well within the grasp of technology? Well I'm glad the good folks at Microsoft are starting to realize this as well. Better late than never I always say. I am really excited and looking forward to Microsoft and mobility in 2009. With the new 3rd generation Zunes right around the corner and the awesome features they will bring, as well as the rumblings of Windows Mobile 7 devices out in consumer hands around Q1 of next year, it really is starting to look like 2009 will be the year Microsoft comes out swinging!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Purchase Microsoft Points With Your Phone... In Japan

Posted by Darius Wey in "Digital Home News" @ 10:30 AM


What if filling up on Microsoft Points was as easy as picking up your phone and having the cost added to your phone bill? That's how it is for NTT DoCoMo users in Japan, and hopefully, that's just a starting point.

If Microsoft is working with other carriers to make this available around the world, great. If not, they probably should. A vast majority of Xbox Live Marketplace and Zune Marketplace users probably have a mobile device of some sort - some have their reasons against directly linking their Windows Live ID and credit card together, while others don't always want to make the trek to their local store to pick up one of the many Microsoft Points cards on offer, so this third option makes a lot of sense.

Friday, April 27, 2007

PC, Windows Mobile, Xbox 360, and Zune in Connected Gaming?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 06:00 AM


"A gaming system including handheld devices and console devices has variable functionality and processing performance as determined by the number of components in the system. Gaming components can be combined wirelessly, by wired connections (e.g., via a docking station), or a combination thereof. The processing capabilities and functionality of each gaming component in a combination are augmented by the processing capabilities and functionality of other gaming components in the combination. To take advantage of another gaming components processing capabilities and memory capacity, each gaming component is capable of utilizing another gaming component to process gaming applications. Further, each gaming component is capable of rendering audio and/or video information provided by another gaming component. Also, a gaming component is capable of utilizing another gaming component as an adjunct processor."

This patent filed by Microsoft isn't a reference to Live Anywhere, but something much more. It suggests that one hardware component of a gaming ecosystem can utilize the processing capabilities of another connected component to fulfill a task. Imagine using your Pocket PC as a display or your Zune as a controller for your Xbox 360. Of course, all this is highly theoretical, and patents should always be taken with a grain of salt - at least, until they materialize. Your thoughts on the whole thing?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yes, John Carroll Bought A Zune

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 04:00 PM


"I have placed myself squarely in a niche market. Compared to the juggernaut that is the iPod, the Zune is barely a drop in the bucket. Microsoft hopes to sell 1 million Zunes by June. Apple sells more iPods than that in a month. You can't walk two blocks in LA without seeing an iPod ad. Zune ads are starting to appear in key places around town, but they could do with a bit of "refinement" (explained tomorrow or thereabouts, plus photos). Why, then, did I buy a Zune? Quite simply: because it is guaranteed to plug into Microsoft's growing ecosystem of home media products."

Well, John may not have had a chance to play with his Zune yet, but he's certainly got a well-thought-out reason for buying a Zune. It was certainly more thought-out than my justification (OK, I really didn't have one). The XBox 'ecosystem' is a fantastic reason, and is probably going to make me buy an XBox. So John bought a Zune to complement his XBox, and I'll shortly be buying an XBox to compliment my Zune (No, that's not the only reason). How did you justify your Zune?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Zuneguy: Easy DVR-MS Transcoding

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 03:30 AM


"I love my Media Center. I literally was one of the first to buy on in 2002 and have been using it ever since. As such, I've got tons of content in the DVR-MS file format and it is somewhat difficult to move around from device to device. In addition, I wanted the ability to remove unwanted content from my shows (like commercials). I had been looking for a tool that would let me do both for a long time. I finally found DCut awhile ago and it is incredibly useful, so I thought I'd share."

If you love your Media Center as much as Bill Wittress (Zuneguy), then there's a good chance that you have a sizable collection of DVR-MS recordings on your hard disk. Whether you have an Xbox 360 or Zune, Bill shows you just how easy it is to use DCut to move content around from Point A to Point B.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Microsoft Gives the Xbox 360 Some Zune Love

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Software" @ 12:07 AM


"Part of the change to the streaming story is the addition of Windows Media Player 11 and Zune™ as supported PC streaming software. If you install WMP 11 or Zune, it takes over for Windows Media Connect, and you manage connections from within the player itself (look for Media Sharing in WMP 11 or the Zune software). You can, of course, continue to use Windows Media Connect if you don't install WMP 11 or Zune."

Yesterday's Fall Dashboard update for the Xbox 360 added many new features - among them, support for Zune. With the update in place, the Zune software (or Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Connect) allows you to stream content from your Windows XP-based or Windows Vista-based PC to any Xbox 360. The upside here is that you no longer need a Media Center PC, which was originally a requirement when the Xbox 360 launched late last year. In addition, the Dashboard update allows you to stream music, pictures, and video (we're assuming wirelessly) directly from your Zune to an Xbox 360. The moment Zune launches (and the moment we can get our hands on one), we'll show you how the Xbox 360 and Zune add up.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Integration of Services: Marketplace and Points

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 06:06 AM

Earlier in the year, back when Zune was hardly a blip on the radar, I wrote an article that discussed the potential of Zune. It consisted of facts and rumours, but also some burning thoughts on my mind that I just had to get out in the open. With the Xbox 360 riding high, there were many things Microsoft could do with the Zune to make it a truly integrated experience. And based on all that was revealed yesterday, Microsoft is heading in the right direction.

Let's take a look at the Xbox 360. With internet connectivity, it connects directly to Xbox Live and the accompanying Xbox Live Marketplace, which is home to a plethora of free and paid content. Purchasing content is simple. You always have the option of using a credit card, or Microsoft's online currency system known as Microsoft Points, which can be acquired online or over the counter. But hang on, why a second option? Why complicate matters? Credit cards work remarkably well, don't they? Well, sure, but what if you don't have a credit card? Of course, if you're in that boat, you're stuck. Whatever the reason - age, employment status, bad credit rating, or even plain old fear of using credit cards online - Microsoft Points offers an alternative method of payment. In addition, they can be used for micro-transactions, effectively bypassing the minimum transaction amounts that some banks impose on their customers. They can also reduce the number of credit transactions, and thus, the number of credit transaction fees. Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, Points cards make great gifts too.

Now, when I wrote that article back in July, I hinted that Microsoft Points would work great in the Zune's online store, which of course, we now know as the Zune Marketplace. And guess what? It's going to happen. If you have an Xbox Live membership, you can transfer Points from the Xbox Live Marketplace to the Zune Marketplace, and vice versa (using the same Windows Live ID). If you're buying Points fresh off the shelf, you can use it in both Marketplaces. Whether it's the Halo 3 picture pack or the award-winning album from John Legend, Microsoft Points serves as a single currency system allowing people from all walks of life to sample some Marketplace action. In the future, we may see a rewards-based system centred on Points, and even access to hardware purchases. It's all part of Microsoft's vision to centralising and integrating their digital entertainment products and services.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Engadget Interview: J Allard, Microsoft Corporate Vice President

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 05:25 PM

"You know, it's been our philosophy that digital music is just getting started. The world is gaga about iPods, but everybody in the world listens to music, not just 50 million people that have iPods. And so we're taking a real deep approach when it comes to music and saying, "There's an opportunity with this technology to narrow the distance between artists and their audience." What does that look like? And we're talking about a lot of different artists saying, "What can Zune be doing to change the medium for you in really exciting new ways? How can we get beyond just getting the zeros and ones off of CDs and putting them in people's pockets, and change that?" We're talking to consumers and saying, "How can we change the way that you discover new music? You know, we'd love you to find new people based on the music you love, we'd love you to find new music based on the people you love." How do we change that dynamic?"

A very interesting interview by the gang at Engadget. J Allard talks about how Zune isn't a device, it's a platform. And like all Microsoft platforms, it's a long-term play with a lot of depth, and designed to bridge with other Microsoft platforms to the greatest possible effect. In the case of the Zune, it's bridging into the Xbox and Vista. How deep that will go is anyone's guess, but I expect big, bold things from the company where Zune is concerned over the next several years. No one takes on the iPod empire in a single pitched battle: it's a long-term war. In the end, if we as consumers get better devices, all the better.

Microsoft and Their History of Hardware Design

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 06:22 AM

In the lead up to the official Zune launch, there's been much discussion around Microsoft's history of hardware design, and how some feel they don't have any experience designing hardware. I disagree with that, and here's why: compared to their ventures in the world of software, Microsoft has had relatively few hardware products, but for the most part they've all been quite impressively designed. A quick breakdown off the top of my head:

  • Microsoft Keyboard and Mice: I don't know the market share numbers, but the market is essentially ruled by Microsoft and Logitech. I'd say that Microsoft's designs are strong, and I've been pleased with many Microsoft keyboards over the years. Lately I've switched to Logitech because they seem to have more robust wireless connections, but I still recommend Microsoft wireless products to those with a single PC and single mouse/keyboard. Microsoft keyboards and mice are quick and easy to set up - great out of box consumer experience.

  • Microsoft Networking Products: After using D-Link, Linksys, and other mainstream networking vendors products for years, my first Microsoft networking product was a breath of fresh air. I've owned an MN-500 (802.11b wireless router), an MN-700 (802.11g), and several of their Ethernet hubs. All were superbly designed from a hardware point of view: they looked great, had excellent functionality, and the out of box setup experience was light years beyond what any other vendor was offering. Netgear is the only other networking vendor that comes close in out of box experience. Microsoft is no longer making their networking products, but that doesn't diminish the quality one bit.
  • Webcams: This is a brand-new hardware realm for Microsoft, and not having used one of their products yet, I don't have much to say. The reviews I've read say that their Webcams are functional enough, though apparently they don't reach the same overall quality levels as Logitech. First gen product blues? Perhaps. I'd say too early to call them a failure though. The design of the cameras themselves look strong, and I'm sure the out of box experience is solid.

  • Xbox and Xbox 360: Although the Japanese market may not have dug it, everyone I knew liked the way the original Xbox looked - like a muscle car. More than the hardware design itself though, the overall Xbox experience was one of quality. The controllers felt good, the software dashboard was well-designed. and the original Xbox was a solid product that made decent inroads against much more established competition. The Xbox 360 was a huge leap ahead in the design department, both from a hardware and software point of view. The dashboard user interface is fantastic, the functionality of the hardware is excellent, and the out of box end user experience was very high-quality: everything from the packaging to the instructions were top-tier.
  • Cordless Phones: Does anyone else remember the MP-900, Microsoft's entry into the cordless phone market in 1999? I bought one, and believe it or not, it was damn impressive! The hardware itself was fantastic; much higher quality overall than similar cordless phones at the time, and no product on the market could match the functionality. After installing the software on your PC, and connecting the phone to your computer (via a serial port I believe), you could use voice activation on the phone to cay "Call John" and the PC would initiate a call from your address book and hand it off to the phone. The product mustn't have sold very well though, because Microsoft never released a newer version, of even any drivers for Windows 98.
  • Gaming Products: Microsoft has released a variety of joysticks, game pads, and other gaming products over the years. I owned several iterations of the Sidewinder joystick back in the day, and all were excellently designed and executed upon - I had zero complaints about the hardware design or functionality.
  • Other Products: Looking through the Microsoft Hardware Site, there are a smattering of other products, including a wireless "clicker" for presentations, but I haven't used their other products. I can't recall having read a negative review about any of the remaining products though.
  • Concept Designs: I've seen PDA and phone concept designs, from in-house Microsoft design teams, that would make your jaw drop. I can't say much do to NDAs, but it's very clear to me that Microsoft employs people that really care about hardware design. For the launch of Windows Vista, Microsoft has created a hardware design guide for OEMs to use if they wish. Microsoft knows that hardware design matters just as much as software design. We no longer live in the era of the bland beige box - design matters.
So what's my point here? I believe that Microsoft has a better track record with their in-house hardware designs than most people would care to admit. This gives me hope that the Zune effort as a whole will be guided by some of these same principles that previous hardware designs have tapped into. That hope is bolstered by the fact that the Zune team is made up of some ex-Xbox 360 team members; one would hope they'd bring much of the same design ethos that guided the Xbox 360 into the Zune project.

My enthusiasm was tempered somewhat when I read that Toshiba was manufacturing the Zune for Microsoft - I wouldn't say that Toshiba has the most impressive hardware designs I've ever seen, though their laptops have certainly improved in the past couple of years. I don't know how much input the Zune team had over the design, but we can hope they did. The FCC pictures we've seen of the first Zune haven't been very impressive - I'm concerned about the thickness of the unit - but I've yet to see any product look impressive in FCC pictures. Later today there should be some significant Zune news, so the shroud of mystery will be lifted - at least a little.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

What is the Zune?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 10:51 AM

One of our readers kindly informed us that in the excitement of the launch of Zune Thoughts, we failed to mention what the Zune was, and so he had to perform a quick web search to find out more. Not too surprising, really. There hasn't been much Zune-related publicity in print and visual media, and most of the buzz surrounding the product has been generated from blogs, internet news sites, and teaser pages. Over the days, weeks, and months, we'll be revealing the Zune slowly and steadily, similar to the peeling of the layers of an onion (without the pungent smell, of course). To kick things off, this post will give a quick "5W" analysis of the Zune. For those of you who have been tracking past and present Zune-related news, you won't find anything new here. This post scrapes the surface of the Zune, and serves to provide a basic overview of what the Zune is and what it has to offer.

What: Zune is a collective term describing the hardware, software, and services behind a new Microsoft-driven portable digital entertainment experience. All three components will be heavily tied together, much like the successful Xbox and Xbox Live model. Unlike other digital audio players driven by Microsoft technologies, the Zune will be unique in that everything will be born and bred within Microsoft, without the interference of OEM partners.

Who: As you've probably worked out, Microsoft is the company behind the Zune. Digging deeper, some of the folk behind the Xbox 360 are the brains behind it all.

When: The Zune isn't a Microsoft project lasting several months. While the first-generation Zune device is expected in the fourth quarter of 2006, the project will continue for many years as successive models are released with new features enhancing the overall integrated experience.

Where: The Zune will initially launch in the United States. By the end of 2007, the product line will expand and be made available in multiple countries.

Why: Microsoft's plan to rejuvenate its presence in the portable digital entertainment market isn't simply about replicating the functions of other digital audio players. The company plans to go the extra mile by tapping into this core theme of "community and discovery", which it knows a lot about, thanks to the successful Xbox model. Visiting an online media store won't just be about purchasing the media, but rather, an additional opportunity to share media (both purchased and user-created), share experiences, and so on. And then in the bigger picture, extending and integrating that Zune experience with other Microsoft products such as Media Center, Windows Mobile, Windows Live, Xbox 360, Xbox Live, and the list continues. Many have argued that the Zune is simply an iPod clone, but based on the hints that Microsoft has dropped over the past couple of months, it's a lot more than just a clone, and as we approach Christmas, we'll start to see the Zune take shape and its features become clearer.

Want to see Microsoft's official teaser page? Visit Coming Zune.

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