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All posts tagged "zune marketplace"

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

MSN Music Still Existed? It's now Zune in the UK

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 10:00 AM


"Microsoft, fresh from the news that it will be bringing its Zune music and video service to the UK, has announced plans to integrate MSN Music into the software. What this means is Zune content will be accessible via MSN Music, with the Zune Marketplace easily accessible after replacing the current MSN download store."

I didn't even realize that MSN Music still existed anywhere in the world - if you recall, back in 2008, MSN Music shut down and announced they'd decommission their DRM servers - which would effectively kill all the music that people had bought if they ever needed to re-authenticate it (moving to a new PC, hard drive crash, etc.). They relented and announced they'd leave their servers active until 2011. Has MSN Music in the UK been selling DRM-poisoned tracks all this time? Or did they switch to MP3s back when the rest of the online music stores did? Regardless, it's now going to be Zune. I wonder if MSN Music will do one to one conversions of DRM'd MSN Music tracks to DRM-free Zune tracks? Nah, probably not...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Zune Marketplace Expands Elsewhere in the World - Sort Of

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 05:44 PM


"REDMOND, Wash. - Sep. 20, 2010 - Microsoft Corp. today announced the further international expansion of Zune, its digital entertainment service. This fall, Zune will expand its music and video footprint and bring the free Zune software, Zune Marketplace online store, Zune Pass music subscription service and enhanced features on Zune.net to new markets, providing a comprehensive entertainment experience on Windows-based PCs, on the go with Windows Phone 7 and in your living room through Xbox LIVE. "The integration between Zune, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox LIVE is an exciting expansion in our entertainment offerings," said Craig Eisler, corporate vice president, Interactive Entertainment Business Group at Microsoft. "Zune enables users to access the entertainment they want, wherever they want it - and now, more people than ever will be able to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that the Zune service offers." "

No surprises here, except perhaps that Microsoft has failed to expand the world-wide reach of the Zune Pass as much as I'd hoped they would. I live in Canada and was hoping - no, expecting - to be able to get a Zune Pass to go along with my upcoming Windows Phone 7 purchase. Here are the highlights:

  • The Zune Pass is coming to the U.K., France, Italy and Spain - consumers in that country will get the full subscription package for £8.99 / €9.99. However - and this is a bit of an issue for some - there are no free 10 tracks per month.
  • Music purchase is available in the U.K., France, Italy, Spain and Germany - this means MP3s from the Zune Marketplace.
  • Video purchases from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Movie rentals from the Zune Marketplace for the U.K., France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Is that a confusing mess, or what? As a Canadian, I can buy videos from the Zune Marketplace, and rent them, but I can't buy music? Or can't get a Zune Pass for the Windows Phone 7 device I'm pretty sure Rogers is going to be launching here in the next 90 days? Ridiculous. And why can someone in Ireland rent a movie, but not buy one? The Germans will be able to purchase MP3s from the Zune Marketplace, but they can't get a Zune Pass? And my head will explode if I try to figure out who can do what with Xbox Live - I've been able to rent movies from Xbox Live for months, but I can't rent them or purchase them on my PC.

This not the unified vision I was hoping to see from Microsoft. This is a slapdash, fragmented effort that fails to deliver a solid entertainment experience to everyone in the countries Microsoft is supporting. Yeah, yeah, I know that this is complicated legal stuff, but if Apple can get it done, why can't Microsoft? I'm tired of having to use a loophole to purchase music from Amazon. I'm tired of iTunes being the only source for video purchases I have available. I was hoping Microsoft was going to deliver a solid solution here, and they haven't. It's no wonder Apple is kicking ass and taking names when this is the best their competition can do.

The glimmer of good news in all this is that there's finally a new release of the Zune desktop software; I hope they've added useful features and improved performance, both of which are sorely needed.

What's your take on this? Am I being too hard on Microsoft? Should I be patting them on the back for achieving a tiny fraction of the digital entertainment unity that Apple has been able to create?

The remainder of the press release is after the break. Read more...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Best Podcast Ever: Movie Trailers!

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Articles & Resources" @ 10:00 AM


I love watching movie trailers, maybe because sometimes the trailers are better than the movie itself. The art of movie trailer editing is truly magical; even the worst movie can be made to look amazing by clever edits and a great background song. I've long wished there was a Windows Media Center-based solution for watching movie trailers, and I still want that, but I've found the next best thing: the New Movie Trailers podcast, courtesy of the Zune Marketplace. I'm not sure how long this has been available, and for many of you this is old news, but I have to say I was thrilled when I found it. Most of the trailers are in HD, so the quality is fantastic. It's also available via the trailer Web page, so you can stream movie trailers without needing to go into the Zune software (the trailers won't be in HD though). Nicely done Zune team, nicely done!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Updated Zune International User's Guide

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


A quick note to let you know that I've updated the International Zune User's Guide. I spent a couple of hours on Saturday going through every part of the article, seeing what was new, and what was the same, updating it for the Zune HD era we now live in. About a month ago I had my buddy Grahm Skee from ABI send me a couple of Zune Pass cards in the mail - the one-month pre-paid cards that sell for $14.99 - and guess what? They worked! So if you live outside the USA and want a Zune Pass, this is the only way I'm aware of for you to get it. Sadly, there's still no way to get any video content other than music videos - hell, I can't even watch the movie trailers. Really Zune team? Even the movie trailers have to be IP-blocked? Sheesh. :-(

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Frustration of Broken Podcasts

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

That's the kind of thing I've been seeing for about a month now from the Zune desktop software when I try to sync the College Humor video podcast. A couple of months back, it would only happen every few videos, but in December it turned into a problem with every single entry. When I click on the yellow exclamation mark, here's the error I get:

The Web Help link doesn't provide much in the way of useful information. The problem is that the files are MP4 in format, and I kind of doubt that the College Humor people decided to change their format recently (though I suppose anything is possible). So what's going on? I have no idea. I'm not the only one complaining about this issue, but so far there seems to be no fix. I tried un-subscribing to the podcast, and re-subscribing, but that didn't help. A podcast directory is only as good as the content in it, and if Microsoft doesn't have some way of tracking podcasts that are tossing errors into user's faces, it's going to be hard for them to grow the service as a reliable method of subscribing to podcasts. Any ideas?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

DRM Problems Plague Some Zune Marketplace Customers

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 03:09 PM

Digital Rights Management, or DRM as it's better know, is an ugly technology that ends up doing far more to alienate legitimate consumers of media content than it does to stop the people who want to take content they didn't pay for. Case in point: here's an email I received from a Zune Thoughts reader last week...

"I just upgraded to Windows 7 from Vista, and it went smoothly. That is until I tried to sync my zune. Apparently many of the songs I purchased long ago from the zune marketplace were DRM protected WMA. Of those songs a number are now available only as MP3. Somehow my songs, which worked fine until I upgraded to Win7, are now useless files that won't play on my PC or sync to my zune. I called zune customer support and they told me that per Microsoft they are not allowed to credit me for songs that were once WMA and are now only available as MP3 because the content provider has changed. I am now stuck having spent money for music that is gone forever...It is incredibly hard to believe that they are refusing to help one of their customers out. I guess I am going to have to switch to using the Amazon MP3 store 100% of the time. The only reason I was purchasing from the zune marketplace to begin with was an effort to support Zune."

Can you believe that? We're not talking here about a DRM-laden store going away - a la MSN Music - we're talking about the Zune Marketplace's back-end music content shifting and burning customers in the process because the DRM-laden WMA files they purchased magically vanished and MP3s appeared in their place. I'm not aware of any simple way - or even a complex way for that matter - for users to export the DRM licenses for their Zune Marketplace-purchased content. So what does the Zune team expect people to do? Never switch computers, and never upgrade to Windows 7?

The good news here is that a few days after this person contacted me, he followed up to inform me that someone from the Zune Team contacted him and offered him song credits to fix this situation. That's great to hear, but it's clear the Zune Marketplace has a very screwed up system if this was allowed to happen in the first place.

DRM is a poison that's best avoided, and until the Zune Marketplace is 100% DRM-free, I'm not going to purchase songs from it. Amazon's MP3 store gets all my money right now. Where do you purchase your music from?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Music Sharing: Why Only 30 Seconds?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 04:45 PM

All the focus right now is on the Zune HD, and the hardware does indeed look sweet, but the Zune experience is about more than just the hardware. Case in point: my friend Matt sent me four songs by BLK JKS to check out, Zune to Zune. Rather than plugging in headphones, I docked my Zune so I could listen to it my desktop computer speakers. Much to my surprise, I saw that I was only able to listen to 30 second samples - presumably coming from the Zune Marketplace rather than my Zune itself.

It makes me wonder if the issue here is that the Zune software can't play music directly off the Zune itself - and that's why I get the 30 second samples. If so, that's another limitation of the Zune and the Zune desktop software: more than once I've been travelling and had my Zune with me, full of music, and my laptop with no music. Sometimes you don't want to, or can't, put in headphones so listening to music on my laptop is my preferred method. Short of transferring the music from the Zune to the laptop, there's no elegant way to do this. Will the new 4.0 software address this issue? Time will tell...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

HD Podcast Selection Growing on Zune Marketplace

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 02:53 PM


"This week we unveiled a new HD video podcast themed area or page in the Zune Marketplace software. Yes, Zune does have a growing selection of HD video content available. You don't have to wait for the new software or Zune HD device to start enjoying this great crystal clear video content on your big laptop screen. monitor or on a large HD television. The other plus is that it is FREE, yes FREE."

I wasn't aware that the Zune Marketplace even had HD podcasts - being someone that works from home, I have no commute and don't tend to have the "down time" most people use to consume podcasts. I downloaded a couple of the HD podcasts, and they look great! Nice to see the Zune team beefing up their HD podcasts....almost as if there's a device coming that would be perfect for sending them out to a HD TV screen... ;-)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Xbox Live Purchases Listed in Local Currency Cost

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Articles & Resources" @ 11:14 AM


"Meeting with Microsoft's Scott Austin to talk about Xbox Live, there was little expectation of sexy reveals or big news, and what we saw during the briefing wasn't flashy in any way. But there was still some really good news for Xbox 360 owners: Microsoft is getting set to update Xbox Live in a number of ways to make it easier to find and buy content. The big news is that games will be priced in your local currency, and you'll be able to buy with a credit card, bypassing the point system altogether. That's not all."

One of the things that really irritates some people about the Xbox Live system is the reliance on points for purchasing content - and because the Zune ecosystem is so closely tied to that of the Xbox, over on the Zune Market place points were the only choice for buying content. That's changing, at least on the Xbox side of things - purchases will be listed in local currency costs (that's dollars and cents) and you'll have the option to pay via a direct charge onto your credit card, or you can use points if you have them. That will be great for renting movies - it always ticked me off that I had to bust out an Xbox Points calculator to figure out how much an HD movie was really costing me.

Here's my hope: the Zune Marketplace will be able to transition over to a cash-based system rather than being reliant upon Xbox Live points. There are some people that absolutely loathe the points system, and if the Zune Marketplace can reach parity with iTunes and Amazon's MP3 store by charging dollars instead of points, I'll all for it.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Zune Video Service Coming to Xbox 360 in 18 Countries

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune News" @ 12:01 PM

There were some rumblings about this last week, but today at E3 Microsoft has confirmed the details: Xbox owners will be able to access all the video content on the Zune Marketplace. Playback is enhanced by what Microsoft is calling "Smooth Streaming" - video playback starts very quickly at a low bit-rate, then ramps up in bit-rate for maximum quality. This means that, assuming you have a decently fast Internet connection, there shouldn't be much in the way of "Please Wait: Buffering" messages. The video pushed down the pipe are glorious 1080p, and will have 5.1 surround sound. I haven't ordered many movies off the Xbox Marketplace, but aren't they all in 720p? If so, this is a big jump in quality - nice! There's also going to be enhanced search functionality to make finding things easier - that's a good thing, because the Xbox Marketplace was a very manual affair, and now that the Zune Marketplace is going to be offering scads more content, being able to find it easily is important. Read more...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why Does Zune Marketplace Album Art Suck so Much?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 07:00 AM

I really like album art. I'm a visual person, so I like looking at album covers. Quite often when I see the album cover I remember the music on it. I was looking at some songs in the Zune Marketplace that I had bought, and the album art is completely pathetic and unimpressive. Check this out:

Gee. 240 x 240 pixels and badly over-compressed (UPDATE: it's only 150 x 150 pixels, no wonder it looks so bad on the Zune, it has to scale up from 150 x 150 by 240 x 240). That looks incredibly ugly when I'm listening to music via Windows Media Center and that image is shown on a 26" LCD TV. Nasty. When I stripped the DRM from my Zune Marketplace tracks, I used Media Monkey to access the cover art from Amazon.com. Check it out:

That's resized slightly - the Amazon.com album art is 600 x 600 pixels (UPDATE: it's 500 x 500), and not over-compressed so you can still see the album art details.

Zune Marketplace, you've got to do better. Oh, if you're looking for high resolution album art, check this personal project of mine out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Why Doesn't the Zune Software Sign Me In Automatically?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 12:00 PM

One of the things I'm constantly thinking about when I'm using software, or any type of hardware that has a user interface, is whether or not the design is such that it's as efficient as possible. Does it allow me to do what I want as quickly as possible, or does the design make me wait - or worse yet - ask me to click this or what to make what I want happen? The Zune desktop software is one such application that could use some optimization. There are about a dozen high-need improvements that this software needs (stability, speed, DVR-MS transcoding support, podcast support, and many other things), but there's an easy fix they can do for one of my irritations. When I start up the software it takes a few seconds to initialize, then it downloads the latest Zune marketplace catalogue. On a fast computer, this entire process takes no more than four seconds, so in that regard the software is great.

Here's the problem though: if you want to listen to any of the music samples in the Zune Marketplace, you need to be signed in. Fair enough. You can configure the sign-in process to sign your profile in automatically, without prompting for a sign in. Yet it doesn't sign you in until the last possible moment, right when it tries to start a stream for an audio sample. Is there a single good reason why the software wouldn't sign you in when the software first loads? This is a variant of Windows Messenger, which has an option to sign in at start-up. Why can't the Zune software do the same? Depending on network congestion, I've seen the sign-in process happen as quickly as two seconds, and take as long as ten seconds - most of the time it's around four seconds. Then it needs to start the streaming of the first audio sample, and again that can take anywhere from two seconds to ten seconds. If the Zune software signed the user in at start-up, they'd cut the wait time in half for the first audio sample that the user initiates. That seems like a worthwhile improvement to me.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cleaning Internet Temporary Files Helped Fix Zune Problem?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 01:00 PM


"Just a quick tidbit of info to pass along, although this is an odd Zune issue, and an even odder solution. I actually lost the ability to sign in to the Zune Marketplace and therefore couldn't get new music from my Zune Pass subscription. I uninstalled and reinstalled the Zune software a number of times but to no avail. Here's what I saw: when clicking the Sign In button on Zune, nothing happened. Literally...nothing. It was like the button had no code behind it."

Perhaps an obscure problem, but a good one to document anyway - the eventual solution was to clear out his Temporary Internet Files. IE7 makes this a bit better, topping out by default at 1024 MB, but that's still huge and not needed in our broadband world. I have mine set around 50 MB or so.

Monday, October 30, 2006

More Zune Marketplace Screenshots

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Software" @ 12:37 PM


Best Buy has a Flash demo that contains some new images of the Zune Marketplace, which so far Microsoft has kept under tight wraps. I screen capped all the images they had, so take a look!

More images after the break!

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