It seems respect for legacy users is now outmoded at Microsoft, with the Zune team pulling the rug out from under Zune Pass subscribers today by removing many features which may ultimately rob them of purchased content.
In a letter sent to subscribers users are warned that from the 31st they will no longer be able to share songs and use other social features, use Zune HD apps, purchase or stream music videos, and the worst part, will no longer be able to re-activate previously purchased DRMâ€™ed music videos when users move PCs.
The last item is particularly nefarious, given that this means users will lose access to their purchased content within a year or two or sooner when they upgrade.
Microsoft is now building up quite a history of abandoning their users with pretty callous disregard for their investments. Such a pattern of behaviour will do nothing to show the world Microsoft and their products are worth their investment in time and effort, which may already be slowing adoption of Microsoftâ€™s new technologies.
In short, investing in legacy support is the same as marketing to future customers also, and may even earn higher dividends.
The post makes it clear Microsoft â€œwill no longer be producing Zune playersâ€ and that the focus is Windows Phone 7. The service will remain, and warranties will be honoured, but Zune HD owners now officially have a collectors item.
For everyone who is still hanging on to the Zune HD, there is some good news that should send good cheer your way during this holiday season. On the latest Zune Insider Podcast #98, the hosts Matt Akers and Jessica Zahn had new announcements for the device(Around minute mark 8:25). It seems like Microsoft hasnâ€™t completely forgotten about the device. The new games are Finger Physics, Tiki Totems and A Beanstalk tale. The Facebook and Twitter app got bug fixing updates, and so did the Alarm clock and Snowball game. So, go try them out and let us know what these fixes bring.
It’s now possible to have an Xbox avatar or any custom image engraved when buying a Zune HD, via Zune Originals.Â For $15, buyers of the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB Zune HD can upload any photo, or choose their Xbox avatar to be etched on the back of a new Zune HD.Â The new custom etching can be put on any color of player, and for those that upload a photo, there are four different etching styles to choose from.
I happen to have an etching from the artist series on the back of my Zune HD, and in addition to it adding a bit of customization to the device, it adds some texture to the surface (in a video I posted earlier this week, the user commented that his non-engraved Zune HD kept slipping out of his hand).
TheDbG33k has posted this very thorough review of both the Zune on WP7 and Zune HD UI.Â He breaks down every aspect of the interface on both devices, and while 15 minutes may be a bit long for a YouTube video, you’ve got to give him points for not rushing through his review.
He does, however, bring up a few points that deserve clarification:
He speculates that the upcoming WP7 update will include some sort of update to the Zune part of the phone- I haven’t read or heard anything to support this (unlike the well-publicized copy and paste update).
He also calls out the phone for not having an HD radio. Like TheDbG33k, I too miss the HD radio feature, but it was probably because WP7 is for an international audience (HD radio is not an international standard).
All in all, this video give a nice, “real world” look at both devices.
Hold on tight folks, this is going to be a long ride!
A couple of days have passed since Microsoft made the ill fated announcement removing Drive Extender Technology from Windows Home Server â€œVAILâ€ under the guise of â€œcustomer feedbackâ€ The reality however, clearly differs in that they meant the corporate customers and not the average consumers to whom WHS was meant for. From Paul Thurrott
Because mainstream Windows Server products are more important to the company and its partners (emphasis mine) Microsoft decided to axe Drive Extender. In a briefing last month, the software giant explained to me that the decision was final, and that Drive Extender would not be reappearing in the future.
The reaction from the average users who have deployed and championed the OS has been overwhelmingly negative with the WHS connect site logging over 650 comments and 2500 votes in favor of bringing the feature back. Microsoft for their part have not responded other than a ridiculous follow up post that clarified nothing. If we go by Mr. Thurrottâ€™s statement, the goose is cooked and MS will just hide and hope that all this goes away.
Several months back, I came across this article titled â€œMicrosoft: Stop the shiny object syndromeâ€ by Scott Barnes aka MossyBlog, a former Silverlight/WPF program manager at Microsoft which hit on some misgivings I had about the company. I intended to write an article on how the story related to what I saw on some of their other offerings but never got around to it until now.
WHS DET is/was a forward looking technology that thought of and catered to the average consumers need for easy backup and pain free expansion of storage without the hassle and expense of RAID. Read the guiding principles for DET making the case against RAID and compare them to WHS competing offering from Drobo, highlighting their BeyondRaid Technology. They are essential trying to solve the same problem RAID creates when deployed in the home environment. So what does Microsoft do? They capitulate to their partners and tell us that they will offer RAID solutions from these third parties even though they fully know, â€œRAID sucks as the basis for a consumer storage productâ€ Drobo is now shrewdly offering a $100 discount to users looking to migrate from WHS to Drobo FS.
For some strange reason, there are no pictures or mention of the Zune HD on the Zune.net homepage.Â This is especially odd considering a new Zune HD commercial was just released (posted here).Â The Zune HD is still listed under Products.
Now, this is purely an observation on my part; I don’t have any inside information.Â I’d love to hear any thoughts or theories y’all have in the comments.
Yes, ladies and gents, a Zune HD at Best Buy Commercial.Â I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Zune HD (or any Zune) ad on television; I’ll be looking for it as I fast forward through commercials at home.
It’s interesting to see how they feature not just theÂ music contentÂ of the Zune, but also the radio (well, getting HD radio did have something to do with the naming of the device, but I just don’t think of radios as new and exciting)Â .Â Also, the Zune dock and hooking it up to a TV is featured.
With this new commercial, as well as the Zune on WP7 commercial posted earlier this week, and the WP7 commercials that aired during the launch, it looks like Microsoft has realized that they should start producing fun, hip ads to get people to buy their products.
Thanks to Pradeep for giving me the heads up on this.
During this weekâ€™s Zune Insider Podcast #84 (Subscribe here) Microsoftâ€™s Dave McLauchlan announced a partnership with United Airlines which will see 500 Zune HD devices loaned to passengers on long flights. The devices will be preloaded with exclusive content like movies that have played on theaters but not yet released to DVD. The two companies already have a deal whereby Microsoft Zune provides customized music channels to the airline carrier. I like this effort because Microsoft is finally exposing the Zune to a wider audience and more than likely, the passengers are going to enjoy the devices and and want to know more about them, tell their friends about it and even maybe purchase one for themselves. With United agreeing to this trial, it means, IMHO, that they must have been happy with the initial Zune music services in order for them to give the hardware a chance. This could also be used as a gateway for the introduction of Windows Phone 7 concept to the masses.
During the same show, Mr. McLauchlan, announced that more apps and games were coming all of which would be free and if anyone had ideas for games and apps, he could be reached by email at [email protected] or twitter at @DaveMacMS. So, if you are one of those people who have been yearning apps or games on the Zune HD, please let him know.
The Zune HD has not made much of an impact in the portable media device market despite having a better UI and sleeker hardware design (IMHO)than itâ€™s main rival, the iPod touch. One could argue that Microsoft should just cede the market to the iPod and with WP7 already featuring the Zune software, why should they bother with building a standalone player? I believe that the Zune HD lackluster sales performance was due more to Microsoftâ€™s bumbling strategy (In descending order of importance) than the iPods first to market advantage.
Having the device only available in the US
Lack of a SDK for developers to build 3rd party apps
Lack of Bluetooth and external speakers
Lack of accessories to extend the device
The Smartphone market is exploding and we are seeing the convergence of multimedia functions merged onto these phones that leaves a seemingly little room for standalone devices. It sounds insane to suggest that MS should enter this market however, there are few factors that point to a big opportunity being still available.
Firstly, it would be an excellent portable gaming system to go against, the iPod touch, PSP and especially Nintendo DS. The news last month reporting Nintendo DS sales of 510,000+ for the month of June! should be tempting enough and furthermore, the device would complement the Xbox 360 nicely.
Secondly, the Zune HD2 will fit well for people who already have a phone but who donâ€™t want to pay for Smartphone data plans or contracts. Included in this group are kids who still canâ€™t afford or need a phone but are still into gaming and social networking.
Thirdly, it would provide another avenue for MS to challenge Apple in their home turf if they built a native Zune client for Mac to go head to head with iTunes.
What it will look like:
The Zune HD2 will come in two flavors. The first one, pictured above, with the following features in addition to what is currently available
4 inch AMOLED screen
Front facing VGA camera and rear camera with at least 5MP/ Hardware camera button
32 GB, 64, or 120 GB storage
Folding screen like on the HTC touch pro 2 for the controller pad (like shown in the picture)
Home, Search and back buttons
The second flavor will retain the current Zune HD form factor but lose the controller pad and front facing camera because it will be geared towards the low end.
The new Zunes will in effect be the current WP7 minus the phone part. Not only will this mean that Microsoft makes more money by selling the hardware, it keeps them from competing with their partners and provides a test bed for them to improve Zune and WP7 even further. The Zune client for the Mac effectively eliminates the adoption barrier for users who are already invested in the Apple ecosystem and opens a gateway to WP7.
The Zune team seems to have a great sense of humor and if you listen to the Zune insider podcast like I do, you will get the feeling that it is a great place to work. Here is a short video they made that will surely brighten your day!
Microsoft has released the long awaited Facebook client for the ZuneHD.
Engadget, who gave it a try, notes the app has some issues. Most were related to some connectivity problems, but they note that the photo viewer allows one to leave comments, but lacked pinch-to-zoom, or any other form of zoom in fact. This issue is also present on the Windows Mobile version of the Facebook client, but rather disappointing for a newly released product running on the flag-ship version of their mobile OS.
Spanish blog myucomputer.com claims to have first hand knowledge that confirms that Microsoft will be announcing a Zune-themed phone at Mobile World Congress, powered by the same Tegra chipset as found in the ZuneHD.
Like the ZuneHD the device will also have HDMI-out capability, but retain the 480×272 screen.
They go on to speculate that the device will feature Windows Mobile 7, but this early in the day its likely to be the cut down non-multi-tasking version rumoured rather than the real release we will see towards the end of the year.
At WMPoweruser.com we find the rumour believable, and will make sure we are there to bring you the first pictures of the device.