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Zune Is Dead – Long Live Zune

In the least likely to surprise anyone news, Microsoft is killing off the hardware line of Zune.

They promise the service is still important and they won’t let that go.

If you followed me for any time, I was an early advocate of the Zune. I launched a site all about it – Zuneluv.com – and spent some time as a Zune MVP. I wasn’t asked to come back to the program last year. I wasn’t surprised.

Microsoft still has some of the most passionate and brilliant people I have ever met. Zune’s potential was never really realized and is a shame. The Zune team still holds a place in my heart and it will be fascinating to see what happens to them over the next 6 months or so.

So, here’s the question … What’s the real story here?

Is this a story of Apple’s sheer dominance in everything media (I am typing this on my iPad 2), or a story of Microsoft’s irrelevance, or the story of a project gone very wrong?

I’m actually too close to this story to be able to write objectively about it but I would love your thoughts? Please leave them below.

Xbox 360 With Zune HD Integration (Fall Update Preview) – Fascinating Implications – Is This The Box I’m Looking For?

The TV on the Internet world has had a bunch of interesting announcements this week. We now know Apple TV is running IOS on the inside (TV Apps anyone?) and Hulu+ is coming to the Roku box. When will we get that ultimate box?

Does Microsoft have a chance with all in this?

Let’s cover the big issues (in my mind at least): Price, Netflix integration, Hulu+ integration, Movies to purchase/rent, Television to purchase/rent:

Roku: $69 and up – Netflix yes / Hulu yes / Movies yes (Amazon) / Television yes (Amazon)
Apple TV: $99 – Netflix yes / Hulu no / Movies yes / Television limited
Xbox: $199 and up – Netflix yes / Hulu yes / Movies yes / Television yes
Boxee Box: $249 – Netflix yes / Hulu yes / Movies yes / Television yes (free/paid)

We just don’t know enough about Google TV (yet) to include here.

Microsoft sent an Xbox with the Fall Update Preview Beta. Very nice integration. Haven’t been able to talk about it until today. BTW, here are Engadget’s thoughts.

Yes, Roku is cheaper but she doesn’t let me play Gears of War – nuff said.

I think Microsoft has something very cool here – but I’d love your thoughts. I got everything I want on this device (minus iPhone integration, of course) and don’t know or see how Apple can deliver on their Apple TV platform (or at least what we know of it today). Boxee is more expensive and does a lot less. Yes, I have some free Internet TV viewing options but there are ways to get that on the Xbox as well.

Embedded below is a video walkthrough of the Zune stuff on the new Xbox Fall Update Preview. More on that over at ZuneLuv.com.

Zune HD

So, the Zune HD has been out for a few days now. I’ve had mine for a bit longer, but wasn’t able to activate it for use until Tuesday morning like everyone else. So, what do I think?

The Good

  • Form factor and feel are awesome. This device feels much “bigger” than it really is. Finally a “pocket” device that I can put in my pocket without fear of smashing.
  • Interface is gorgeous. Yes, the iPod has been outclassed (in interface at least). There is a lot of stuff that pops up as you use it that you weren’t looking for. Pure eye candy here.
  • Zune Pass is the future of media delivery. I’ve read a lot of complaints about how there is no hard drive version of this thing. Those people are missing the point. The power of the Zune Experience is your music in ‘the cloud.’ I’ll be writing a lot more on this soon, I just still have to get my mind wrapped around it. I will say this though, it is the future of content delivery and you can look at it today. Amazing.
  • Microsoft finally got their act together. Microsoft is finally utilizing their ecosystem in producing a full media story and they’re gonna sell a lot more and get a lot more respect that way.
  • Zune.net is the best media site online today. This will probably never get picked up by the “it’s cool to bash Microsoft” press but the media player interface inside of Zune.net is world class. The Podcast Directory now let’s you play both audio and video content right in the site and those with Zune Passes (still got mine, still love it) can stream whatever they want to any device with Silverlight Installed. Yes, I’m streaming music on my Mac as I write this.
  • The Zune HD Browser is a rock solid fast Mobile Web browser. This will excite some and frustrate others. Read the linked article at ZuneLuv.com for more on that topic.
  • No Flash in the browser was a big missed opportunity. I know it wouldn’t have been easy or cheap, but the processor can handle it and you could have made that browser amazing as a result.

The Bad

  • The App Store is obviously a last minute (and very weak) addition. I applaud Microsoft for doing it, and can’t wait for the coming Twitter and Facebook clients but apps on media players are a standard now and to not give it more attention is a big miss. This will get better over time and Microsoft has shown they’re fine with updating these devices with the latest and greatest but it’s more silly than it is anything at this point. The “Shell Game … Of The Future” is more the makings of a bad Letterman sketch than it is something to show off your premiere device with. The good apps are the ones we had last time.
  • Zune.net and the Zune Software aren’t fully ready for prime time. This will improve quickly too but when you compare the speed and flash and just dang coolness and compare it to the software, it’s a serious disconnect.
  • No Podcasts in the device Marketplace. Since we’re not talking carrier fees holding this back, Microsoft should have made that experience as cool. Feels like a budget cut issue personally.

The Verdict

This is the best possible (and coolest) music device I could possibly recommend. Since Zune has traditionally been “about the music” I think they did an amazing job here.

The “world of entertainment in the palm of your hand” element has great potential, and I can see where they are going, they just haven’t gotten there (completely) yet. Since video doesn’t totally sync up yet with the Xbox infrastructure and since the apps aren’t there to make this more than a music player with a few side apps, … I can’t give my thumbs up here yet.

So, as a music player – simply the best.

As a portable entertainment device – close.

Your thoughts?

New iPods Coming?

AppleInsider tells us that a new iPod lineup is coming very soon – 9/9/9 to be exact. Rumors they’re also “confirming” include some “social networking” features being built inside of iTunes 9.

Weren’t we “laughing” at Microsoft’s attempt to make the Zune social a few years back?

It all makes sense though – the camera and video features in the iPhone 3GS’s are screaming for an iPod Touch version (at the very least). I’m still amazed at ’em and haven’t pulled out my Flip HD since I got the new phone.

And, let’s face it, music and Podcasting is very social – despite how cool it is to laugh at Microsoft.

But speaking of Zune, although Microsoft won’t confirm anything officially at this point, Amazon is pointing to a September 15 release date for the Zune HD product – one week after Apple’s announcements.

Is this a pre-emptive strike from 1 Infinite Loop?

Actually, don’t care, … the cooler and cooler they make our devices, the better and better we are as consumers.

Regardless, I truly doubt the new iPods will have an HDMI out option.

Thoughts?

WWDC 2009 Comments – Paul’s New Media Spin

As always, I geeked out and monitored the livebloggers during the WWDC event. Here are my comments accordingly (for the record, I monitored Geekbrief’s live stream, Engadget, TUAW, and Gizmodo):

  • Zune HD Jokes – haven’t heard yet, but you know they’re coming …
  • New Macbooks and pricing – all nice – but nothing revolutionary.
  • Snow Leopard – nice – but nothing revolutionary (don’t worry, I’ll be upgrading).
  • Quicktime – mixed emotions here. Sometimes I think they need to work on making Flash better – we just aren’t seeing the Quicktime streaming adoption I know Apple wanted. Some standards have just won …
  • Cali’s Occasional “Drops” – It takes a TON of power to livestream video – as cool as it is, I still don’t know if it is scalable yet. And, one day the cool folk at Ustream.tv (and the others) are gonna look at their bandwidth bill and, … yeah.
  • iPhone 3.0 – The stuff that’s been reported on in the past – I won’t comment on here.
  • Rental and downloading of iTunes video content – very cool, Bout time.
  • Tethering – other countries get it – AT&T staying true to form.
  • Video streaming – cool, on a geeky level – but see note on streaming above.
  • In App Purchasing – this one is so huge. Examining the implications of this in Premiumcast something fierce. I know it has been brought up in the past – but killer.
  • Push Notification – How cool would it be to be able to push updates that a new episode of a Podcast is live?
  • So far – not so exciting. Give us something.
  • iPhone 3GS – speed, 3 megapixel camera, nice pics in low light, video (30 fps vga), voice commands, good pricing. Release 6/19.

Nice – but nothing making me run to the store. Video is great – but we’re in an HD world now …

Other thoughts? Comments?