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A single Zune 80 on the left with four flash Zunes on the right  (Source: Microsoft)

Zune 80  (Source: Microsoft)

Zune 4/8  (Source: Microsoft)

Zune 4/8 (Pink) with Zune Dock  (Source: Microsoft)

Zune Marketplace  (Source: Microsoft)
Welcome to the Social: Part Deux

It's been nearly a year since Microsoft launched its Zune portable media player (PMP). Microsoft and consumers had high hopes for the player as details began to slowly leak out concerning the player.

The specs for the player were nothing groundbreaking: 3" QVGA color screen, 30GB HDD, FM tuner and the ability to playback video. The one feature that did pique the interest of consumers, however, was the inclusion of WiFi.

Ideas quickly formulated about what WiFi could possibly be used for on the Zune. There were possibilities of wireless music sharing with family and friends, wireless album syncing with a host computer and perhaps the ability to download music and videos direct from Microsoft via the Internet.

Microsoft fulfilled the music sharing wishes of consumers by giving them the ability to share full-length songs on a "3-day-or-3-play" DRM scheme. The ability to wirelessly sync media with a host computer and wirelessly purchase music tracks, sadly, was nowhere to be found.

Microsoft's first entry into the PMP market had some trouble gaining traction in the market. In March, the player was holding on to roughly 2.4 percent of the PMP market. Apple, SanDisk and Creative held steady at 73.7 percent, 9 percent and 3.3 percent respectively.

Microsoft made moves to push its Zune players on the public with special edition Halo 3 models and a more recent price drop from $249 to $199 – has even featured the slow-selling White Zune for a low $129.99 on its often irreverent site.

Today, the Zune has still barely improved on March's 2.4 percent tally with a total market share of 3 percent according to BetaNews.

Microsoft is looking to change all of this with its new generation of Zune players. The new flash Zunes, as reported on yesterday by DailyTech, will be available in 4GB (Zune 4) and 8GB (Zune 8) varieties. The former will be priced at $149, while the latter will feature a $199 price tag. Both will feature WiFi and the ability to play videos. The Zune 4 and Zune 8 measure 1.6” x 3.6” x 0.33” and will be available in black, green, pink and red.

In addition, Microsoft revealed a new second generation HDD-based Zune. The new $249 Zune 80 features an 80GB HDD (in place of the previous 30GB unit) and a larger 3.2" glass display screen (up from 3"). The new Zune 80 is also noticeably thinner than the first generation model. The Zune 80 measures 2.4” x 4.25” x 0.5” and will initially only be available in black.

All new Zunes features a new touch-sensitive "squircle" controller which Microsoft dubs the "Zune Pad." The Zune Pad is used to navigate through the Zune's menu system. Microsoft has added the ability to playback h.264 and MPEG-4 video on all new Zunes.

Microsoft is also righting at least one of its wrongs with the original Zune regarding WiFi -- all of the new Zunes will be able to wirelessly sync audio, video and photos with a host computer. Syncing occurs automatically when a Zune is within WiFi range of a host computer. This capability (along with the additional video code support) will be added to first generation Zunes with a firmware update (there is no word yet on the availability of said firmware update).

Microsoft revealed that the first generation Zune will now be known as the Zune 30 and will be sold alongside the Zune 80. The Zune 30 will retain the physical attributes of the first generation, but will come standard with the new Zune 80 user interface/firmware and product packaging.

Microsoft is also debuting new Zune Marketplace software to sync with the Zune. The Zune Marketplace will be home to DRM-free music tracks -- over one million of which will be available when the new Zunes launch.

Other loose ends include the news that part of the "3-day-or-3-play" sharing scheme has been dropped – Zune users will no longer have a 3-day restriction placed on shared music files, but the 3-play limit is still in effect. All Zunes will have the ability to import recorded content and media from Windows Media Center-enabled PCs (Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate). The Zune will still not have access to a wireless music store a la the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store, but there will be support for podcasts (which can be shared between Zunes).

Microsoft isn’t taking the portable media player market lightly this time and it is going full bore against Apple. Microsoft still needs to work on getting a wireless music store in place to fully tackle the Apple juggernaut, but there’s always room for an update in the future.

As it stands now, Microsoft new generation of Zunes – especially the flash-based Zune 4 and Zune 8 -- are a welcome refresh and should help the Redmond software giant gain more market share in an iPod-dominated sector.

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You must be kidding
By robinthakur on 10/3/2007 6:23:01 AM , Rating: -1
Microsoft should seriously just give up on this market. They've lost already and any money which they spend is going down the toilet at this stage. I don't really know what the situation is like in America but in the UK, i've never even seen an original Zune for sale, let alone anybody using it. Even the MSVP I used to work with on Sharepoint admitted to owning an iPod, despite Steve Balmer's threat to fire any Micrososft employee who had one :)

They're effectively starting from scratch with these new models, but when you compare even the top of the range Zune with iPod Touch, the design of the Zune looks like any of the non-iPods...uninspiring. It reminds me of Sony's walkman launch a while back. the devices looked very curvy and shiny and sold abcout 10 units, because NOBODY WANTED THEM.

The public seems to have a ravenous attitude for new iPods... When I got the touch, there were loads of business people in suits (it was during the morning on a week-day) skipping work or in 'meetings' like me,to queue outside the Apple store to buy one. If anyone queues to get a Zune, it will be because the tills are busy selling iPods. If I even got one as a gift, I wouldn't even be happy. Trust me, I'm no way a microsoft basher, I'm a dot net programmer, own a 360 and run Vista Ultimate, but I would never ever waste my money on a Zune.

RE: You must be kidding
By acer905 on 10/3/2007 7:18:07 AM , Rating: 1
Just a personal thing but i'd never waste my money on a player locked into a proprietary format and a single piece of software that i can't even replace the battery to.

My thoughts, screw the ipod and the zune. Both are still overpriced in comparison to the sansa view

RE: You must be kidding
By Mach Omega on 10/3/2007 6:49:19 PM , Rating: 2
You'd only waste money being locked into a proprietary OS. Hope you're using Linux.

RE: You must be kidding
By ghost101 on 10/3/2007 7:22:15 AM , Rating: 2
Im pretty sure they haven't been released in the UK yet.

RE: You must be kidding
By robinthakur on 10/3/2007 9:11:15 AM , Rating: 1
Ah ok, that would explain it, (I thought I have seen them for sale on UK websites tho)although the rationale behind that particular business decision indicates some lack of confidence on Microsoft's part on whether it would be an international embarassing failure or a domestic embarassing failure. The more times that people read about the teeny tiny market share of the Zune and the relative strength of the iPod, compared to Micrososft's dominance in other areas, it damages the Zune to the point where people won't buy it. I dislike being locked into DRM more than anything and that's why I use iTunes but don't buy music with DRM. I import it into iTunes and it works fine, fulfilling all my needs. If it didn't do this, then I wouldn't own an iPod...simple.

Everyone who i've shown the iPod Touch to has purchased one within a week. Nuff said. In my department (IT obviously) there are already about 10-11 people with one. Do you honestly think the Zune would have the same effect? They'd baulk at the name first of all, and then enquire whether it worked with iTunes...

Browsing the net wirelessly on Touch is soo much fun, but it makes me wish I bought an iPhone now because I always feel there are some icons mising on screen!! I might try and get my manager to get me one when they come out here in November to replace my Blackberry 8830. Having a non-user replaceable battery doesn't bother me especially as I never have an iPod long enough to need to replace the battery, I sell them on having kept them for, on average, a year and the batteries have always served me well.



RE: You must be kidding
By imaheadcase on 10/3/2007 10:08:08 AM , Rating: 2
Everyone who i've shown the iPod Touch to has purchased one within a week. Nuff said. In my department (IT obviously) there are already about 10-11 people with one. Do you honestly think the Zune would have the same effect? They'd baulk at the name first of all, and then enquire whether it worked with iTunes...

That just proves people in IT world also follow fads and not what is technically inferior product vs other mp3 players on market. Those 10-11 people including you also prob swear by macs and also pack freeze full of veggie burgers.

RE: You must be kidding
By ancient46 on 10/3/2007 12:12:02 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe if you had no prior affiliation with "iAnything" and had no Pavlovian reaction to Apple products, you might just have an open mind when contemplating a purchase. Then factors like sound quality, compatibility and your own personal requirements might be more important. With DRM free music sites popping up all over the net to meet the needs of companies dropping iTunes, I see no reason to use and load its bloatware if I don't purchase an iPod.

I do not currently own any portable, personal MP3 player, but if I do the Apple route does not look like the way to go for quality and ease of use.

RE: You must be kidding
By Mach Omega on 10/3/07, Rating: -1
RE: You must be kidding
By aebiv on 10/3/2007 4:56:14 PM , Rating: 2
Somebody didn't get hugged enough as a child...

RE: You must be kidding
By Mach Omega on 10/3/07, Rating: -1
RE: You must be kidding
By aebiv on 10/3/2007 5:33:37 PM , Rating: 3
That's what happens when you post that Troll-like comment on a site where a lot of people have open minds and eyes.

RE: You must be kidding
By Mach Omega on 10/3/2007 6:31:27 PM , Rating: 1
Hmmm, you're a troll if you criticize MS.... I guess that makes you a shill. Funny how "open minded" only includes when you say something positive about Microsoft. You're a punk-ass shill... stop hiding behind your keyboard and just admit it. This site is anything but "open minded." If that was the case, then people could admit that companies other than MS make great products.

RE: You must be kidding
By aebiv on 10/3/2007 6:50:39 PM , Rating: 2
Amazing how you go right into name calling and labels...

Maybe I am an MS "shill"... Wait, that would mean I'd need to not be typing this on a Mac, or running through my Suse gateway on my network.

Probably would have to throw away my Sharp Zaurus too...

I dunno, the price of becoming a "punk-ass shill" seems to high for me accept!!!!

I'll just stay open minded instead. ;)

RE: You must be kidding
By Mach Omega on 10/3/2007 7:01:52 PM , Rating: 2
I go "right into name calling and labels" when someone accuses me of not being "open minded" when I'm accused of "troll-like" behavior when you only have to look at these threads to see that I'm telling the truth. Any post on here that is critical of the Zune, regardless of how objective, has been rated down to -1.

I don't know how you can be so "open-minded" with your head up your ass.

RE: You must be kidding
By Oregonian2 on 10/3/2007 6:34:48 PM , Rating: 2
Everyone who i've shown the iPod Touch to has purchased one within a week. Nuff said.

Did you tell them about the $88 fee for a new battery? Did you tell them they don't send back the same unit, but a different one (probably one someone else sent in for a battery replacement earlier and has already been sent to China for the labor of replacing it) and how the new unit with the battery replaced could be one of those with the dark-detail problem (after you paid $88 and sent them your good one)?

RE: You must be kidding
By Mach Omega on 10/3/2007 6:40:13 PM , Rating: 1
Did you or any of your ass-hat Zune buddies tell anyone about its crashing firmware?

RE: You must be kidding
By swatX on 10/3/2007 7:57:50 PM , Rating: 2
people like you are the reason why public is getting dumber every second.

RE: You must be kidding
By aebiv on 10/4/2007 1:00:53 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly... Makes me think that there should be an IQ and emotional stability test before granting someone internet access...

RE: You must be kidding
By Uberpr0 on 10/4/2007 3:21:12 AM , Rating: 2
couldn't agree more

RE: You must be kidding
By Oregonian2 on 10/4/2007 6:41:44 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure why you make a personal attack on me that way. FYI I've no Zune and I've paid about $800 so far to Apple for iPods. I'm speaking from experience about sending big bucks to Apple. Are you speaking from personal experience as well (your Zune has been crashing?). My leading candidate alternative to the Touch (to replace the 60G video-iPod that "disappeared" on me in a hotel) is probably a Sandisk or Creative unit. You personally have any experience with those (through your own ownership) that you'd like to share?

P.S. - Both my 60G 5G iPods have in the past required multi-button salutes as well to recover from having crashed. A number of times. Again, my own personal experience.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs
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