Zunes flash players to die

Just as I presumed, Microsoft will do away with the flash-based Zunes that are currently being sold.

It’s disappointing, but pretty logical I guess. The Zune probably hasn’t been making much of a profit in that division, so they’re banking all their resources on the upcoming Zune HD, and not bothering with the other Zune device for awhile, by ‘discontinuing’ them. I’m guessing that if the Zune HD is actually successful as Microsoft hopes it to be, then the non-touch Zunes will pop back up with a hardware refresh and Zunes of all types will exist again.

However, if the Zune HD does awful, then I have a feeling Microsoft isn’t going to bother with Zune anymore. They’ll disband it, and say sorry to people that invested in it, and move on. I really hope not though.

Why should the non-touch flash Zunes still exist? Because:

  • Not everyone needs a touchscreen player – I know some guys that like the tactile feel of the dpad/Zune Squircle on their device, and touchscreens on devices often cost higher. Also, they may worry if the screen gets damaged, they might not be able to use their Zune
  • People want higher storage capacities – The Zune HD capped at 32GB maximum is not enough for them. They need more. Now personally, I don’t see any point in dropping your whole media library in one device just for the sake of ‘convenience’, but that’s what some guys evidently want. A Zune HD with 120GB will be hard to make with the capacitive screens, and it’s going to cost so much more.
  • Microsoft needs a PMP for the lower end of the market – There will be many people that can’t afford something as nice and juicy as the Zune HD, so the Zune 4 and Zune 8 are good matches for them. They’ll probably splurge on Zune accessories when they scrounge up enough cash, and maybe consider buying Zune content on Marketplace. The thing is, instead of buying the generic (and awful) iPod Shuffle and Nano, they’ll have a greater choice if the Zune 4 and 8 are around.

Those are the main reasons, and I think Microsoft should have a presence in all the major areas of the PMP market. Dropping everything to the Zune HD makes me worried how successful this will be.

Do you use a Zune? What do you think of Microsoft discontinuing the non-touch flash players?

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Best Buy to show off Zune HD preview at select stores across the country from August 22-23

Interested in catching a glimpse of the Zune HD before it’s released on September 15th? Well Microsoft has partnered with Best Buy in promoting the Zune HD, and select stores in major cities across the country will be demoing the Zune HD for a few hours.

Here’s are the major metropolitan areas that Best Buy is going to do (each metro area 2-4 stores):

CHICAGO AREA
SAN FRANCISCO AREA
LOS ANGELES AREA
NEW YORK CITY AREA
ATLANTA AREA
DC AREA
BOSTON AREA
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL AREA
DALLAS AREA
HOUSTON AREA
PHILADELPHIA AREA
MIAMI/FORT LAUDERDALE
SEATTLE AREA

I’m planning on visiting the one in my Houston area at Willowbrook. It’s actually kinda close to where I live, and I go to the mall there often enough. I’m not sure, but I might invest in a Zune HD. Most likely a black 16GB version. I don’t have $200+ off me right now, but I might if I had to dip in my bank account…

Anyway, don’t take my word for it, but I hear they might actually let people attending the previews to actually hold and touch the Zunes to play around with them. After all, it does look like a 3 hour event for all stores. I even heard that they might give free Zune Points cards to the first 500 people. I could be wrong in this information, as details might change, but you never know.

I really wish there was more Windows Live connections, considering that the Zune software does USE the Windows Live ID sign-in. Having a Windows Live Messenger app would be neat, and maybe Windows Live Calendar and Hotmail (I want a regular e-mail client application, not just a Hotmail specific one) and other stuff would be nice.

Anybody planning on getting a Zune HD or going to the Best Buy previews?

Information found from Best Buy’s Zune HD page. To see the locations list, click here [PDF].

By the way, the Zune HD website got updated explaining the new Zune features a bit more, and you can preorder as well.

 

The Zune HD release seems really great. I hope Microsoft some great success.

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Current thoughts about the upcoming Zune HD

You’ve probably heard of the Zune HD by now, if you’ve been keeping up with gadget new or Zune news.

I’m pretty interested in the Zune HD, even I’m probably not going to purchase it right off the bat. I’ve used the two previous generation Zunes, and I actually liked them. The first generation wasn’t exactly the most smoothest top-notch experience, but it was a pretty nice player, albeit it’s rather clunky form. I got the black one, and I loved the neat blue double shot effect, and the screen felt nice and wide, compared to other PMPs like iPods at the time. The software however was not so great, and I did have trouble at first syncing the Zune but it was ok. The 2nd generation was my brother’s and it was much improved and even smoother. The software was much better, and in some ways better than Windows Media Player. It was thin and sleek, and I’m surprised that there wasn’t a bigger jump in sales of the new Zunes (typical iPod users).

So the Zune HD, based on the internet buzz, will definitely take off if well marketed. It’s use of an OLED screen, Tegra chip (pretty good for games and content), HD Radio, HDMI, accelerometer, 720p HD output, and probably more pretty much trumps the current iPod Touch in my opinion.

So here’s a list of things I hope to see in the Zune HD as well as its accessories:

  1. More storage capacities beyond 16 and 32GB – How about 64 or 120GB? I’ve heard many people liking the Zune HD, but will probably not buy one because of the storage limitations. Personally, I never use that much storage (not even 4GB) and if I needed to, I would just swap what stuff was on my Zune with other stuff in my library. The so-called “conveniency” of having your whole media library on your device is just dumb in my opinion, because you couldn’t possibly use it all at once, and it’s not that difficult to connect your Zune to the library and view something else. But bigger capacity is always welcomed. There’s a rumor that Microsoft will at least have 64GB version later this year or sometime.
  2. Application Store – I want an official Zune application store. From what I know, there won’t be one initially, but there will be one through an upgrade later. Here’s what I think the application store should be like on the Zune: many good applications available (like official ones from major companies), little regulation as needed to allow applications into the Marketplace, centralized payment system, way to share applications with a friend for a small free trial period, and a nice simple layout to find/view applications on the Marketplace. I personally think that will need to be some regulation as to the submission of applications. I wouldn’t want to download malware onto my Zune, or have a ‘naughty’ application in the hands of a kid. Stuff like that. But I hope not to see blocking of apps like Pandora or Google, for competitive reasons and such. I also would like to see apps to be shared, like the way you can share music & pictures through WiFi. You think this app would be good for your friend, so you send it to them to try out for at least a day. Neat idea.
  3. Built-in Camera – This would definitely one-up the iPod Touch if it was in the Zune HD first. It should be preferably at least 3.0 MP, flash available, and good controls on the screen, and a camera button on the side.
  4. Hardware add-on for playing games – I like the idea of Xbox Live content to be available on the Zune, and for more deeper games, there could be a little controller add-on to the bottom of the device with simple Xbox controls for users who want to play Xbox games. Hopefully there will be many games ported to the Zune to make this work.
  5. Excellent mobile browser – Many people have complained of IE Mobile’s shortcomings (though the 6.5 version has been good), and hopefully the one in the Zune HD is at least equal if not better than the ease of use as the one on the iPod Touch. According to a CNET reviewer who had a good glimpse, it’s pretty good.
  6. Flash & Silverlight support – It’s not included, but it wouldn’t hurt through an update. Unfortunately, a lot of websites use Flash, like YouTube and Pandora Radio, so a little Flash support would help. Silverlight would be great, especially if more websites took advantage of it, in comparison to Flash. Some people have cited that Flash can bog down a mobile device, but others have argued that the Tegra chip is well capable of running Flash content.
  7. Bluetooth Support – I’d love to plug in some Bluetooth headphones with wonderful A2DP support. It’s like a major feature for the best audio PMPs. Bluetooth could also be better for wireless syncing, rather than WiFi.
  8. Non-touch Zune player – I know this sounds counter-productive to current trends, but there’s still a market for a nice decent non-touch PMP. There are many fans that love the current 2nd generation Zune PMP right now, and they like the fact that’s it doesn’t rely on touch technology. I’m guessing that they don’t like using their fingers/stylus to interact with their PMP, don’t want to pay for something expensive when it could be cheaper, and like tactile controls. I really felt that the 2nd generation Zune did a great job of combining a non-touch screen player with a touch-like interface when you consider the swiping you can do to get around the interface. Anyway, a nice solid non-touch PMP would still be nice with a hardware refresh, like the way Apple still sells iPod Classics.
  9. Nike+ Support? – I’m not sure if Nike+ for iPod software is Apple made or Nike made, but I think it’s probably most Nike-made. Anyway, I think it would be neat if there could be something like that for the Zune. If not a Nike deal, maybe one with Adidas or Puma. Some people think Nike+ is overrated, but I think it’s neat, and I’d want Zune support too.

As for the Zune software & Marketplace & Social:

  1. Drop the love/hate rating system – Many people have found it very ineffective. If you added music to your library, chances are, you probably like it. They should go back with the 5-star rating system. The 5-star rating system lets users have a better degree of control on how much they like a certain thing. I may like both Song A and Song B from my favorite artist, but I’d like to indicate that I like Song A more, by giving it a higher rating like 5 stars, instead of labeling both as ‘I like’. It just makes sense!
  2. Less memory intensive – The Zune software client has been really memory intensive on my system, every time I launch it. I can even hear my hard drive buzzing. I would really appreciate an update, that would make it less memory intensive.
  3. More neat “Now Playing” screen splashes – I love this feature of the Zune. It’s really nice graphical goodness. When you play a song on the Zune software client, if it’s a very popular artist, a neat background splash launches, with big tinted photos, and big block words expressing the artist rolling through. I would really MORE artists could get the special Now Playing splashes. Here’s an example of one:
  4. Better messaging options on Zune Social – It would be nice if we had the option of IMing other members on Zune Social, if the person you are corresponding to allows it. I’m not asking to launch up the Messenger client, but built-in IM functionality, like the way Facebook does their IM bar. Anyway, they could at least upgrade the character limit when sending messages from 230 characters to 500.
  5. Marketplace had more video & games content – There could still be more music content of course, but I would love to see more music videos, movies, TV shows, and games coming out. Games support seemed rather rusty, since there were only two official games available for the Zune (with many more from XNA studios), so there should be some more. There’s already a good amount of TV shows, but there could be more, and we definitely could use movies!
  6. Zune Pass for video content – I’d say the ability to watch/stream as many movies or TV shows or music videos as you want, for a monthly price of probably $19.99 or cheaper. You’d also be able to keep one free movie or TV episode a month. Any monthly fee that is affordable for the amount of content available. I really think nice and convenient subscription services, will help lower down piracy if studios made it more affordable and worthwhile in paying.
  7. Firmware update for previous generation Zunes – I’m not sure if the firmware running on the Zune HD can work with non-touch controls in the previous Zunes, but it’d be nice if the latest Zune HD firmware was available to previous generation Zunes, or at least some type of a firmware update. Even if the Zune HD’s firmware won’t work on the current Zunes out there, I’d like to see an update for Unicode support, EQ, and any other simple software goodies available on the Zune HD.
  8. More codec/format support – PNG images would be nice, FLAC, and others.

Overall, I really hope to see Zune become a more solid product line, and I really hope it encourages 3rd party support to really come along in making the next Zune more ubiquitous, and really worthwhile in investing. Anything I should add?

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The Ultimate Zune 3 wishlist

                                                                         

Zune 2.0 definitely rocks. Even though there were a few minor negatives, for the most part, the new Zune systems rock!

But of course, it could still stand to do better.

So I made a list of things that I think should be in the new Zune device/firmware/software.

First, my device wishlist:

  • 16GB version – some people think 8GB is too little, and 80GB is too much. Somewhere in between would be a nice option. That’s why news of the yellow Zune 16 got some tounges rolling.
  • 30GB version (with new updated look) – Many people also still want a 30GB player, but with the new updated look. Just update the look, it’s not that hard, right?
  • User-replaceable battery – Many people want a PMP that allows a user to be able to change their own battery, without sending it somewhere to get fixed, and pay big bucks. And some people find it more convenient if the user can change the battery, in case there’s no way to be able to charge the Zune on an airplane trip, and be bored to death. But at the same time, many of us would like a way to recharge it in the device as well. Do the best of both worlds Zune team.
  • Make it slimmer – as if the Zune wasn’t slim enough, it still can be, right? To the point where the device’s width is 6mm or less.
  • Make it smaller and more portable – Some people love the iPod shuffle, because it’s tiny and it works to just play audio. Even though the Zune’s all about video and a screen interface, they ought to offer a super tiny version, that holds a lot of music.
  • Light-up Zune logo – Silly feature. I know. But it would be neat if the device had a light-up Zune logo.
  • Touchscreen version – People are really into touchscreens these days. Let’s see a touchscreen version of the device. Multi-touch?
  • More engraved design options – The text you can choose is nice, but I would like my own pictures or art to be engraved on the back.
  • Cheaper – Cheaper is always nice.
  • Headphone jack at the top – they did this with the 1st gen, but not with the 2nd gen? It makes more sense, in case you need to dock your Zune somewhere.

Firmware:

  • Visualizations/bar stacks – I would love to see some visualizations or bar stacks graphics to display when my music is playing.
  • View Word, PowerPoint, PDF, etc. files – I want to view .doc(x), .ppt(x), .pdf, etc. files on my device.
  • More media format support – Maybe DivX, XVid, or some of the other popular formats going around.
  • AM Tuner – if there’s an FM Tuner, how about AM Tuner?
  • Speedier – I noticed a small lag, compared to the firmware before 2.2
  • Bluetooth
  • High-res picture viewing
  • Grab/Sync podcasts via WiFi
  • share video podcasts via WiFi
  • audiobook/e-book support
  • gapless playback
  • playlist sharing
  • WiFi connect to the Xbox 360
  • Windows Sideshow support
  • No 3-play limit IF you are a ZunePass user (unless the song is not approved for sharing)
  • Extend 3-play limit to maybe 5-10?
  • clock
  • get business partners to set-up a store music kiosk, where listeners can flag a music track they hear, to look up later
  • Live Messenger support
  • Wi-Fi Music store (will get more people to use ZMP)
  • Gaming
  • Use as a portable hard drive
  • scrolling lyrics support
  • RSS feeds updated by WiFi
  • edit songs on the go
  • FM recording
  • EQ settings
  • video out (for all Zunes, not just Zune 80)
  • internet browser (simple)
  • video playlists

Zune software program

  • Tweak WMP 11/12 with Silverlight or something, add all the benefits of current Zune program, and put that all together. Perfect
  • 5-star rating of music
  • more extensive ZMP, with games, audiobooks, TV shows, movies, about a ton of things
  • ZMP to offer ‘official’ lyrics to songs – Must have feature! I would do anything for that. They should offer it for free up to .30 cents.
  • Visualizations/bar stacks graphic art
  • PlayForSure compatible
  • smart/auto playlists support
  • carousel view that matches the wonders of CoverFlow
  • Way to resize thumbnails
  • Dynamic search – used to. Still in WMP 11
  • back AND forwards button
  • List view to have different shaded bars for each media piece, similar to the layout for list views in iTunes  
  • graphical look similar to WMP 11 – or heck, drop it into WMP 11
  • show more additional artist profiles – add more for details for ALL artists and get some more history into it
  • Put ZMP onto the MSN Music site! Make it on the web! Sign-in, and do what you need to do!
  • Get RID of Microsoft Points – for MOST users, it’s a hassle that we don’t need to deal with in converting
  • International versions
  • More media formats support
  • Allow developers to tap in, and allow them to make extra skins (same level of customizability of WMP)
  • Help files embedded into the software, instead of external Zune site.
  • View Zune Social profile in the player, and be able to edit it
  • Zune wallpaper site
  • Does everything WMP 11 can
  • faster install
  • OS X support – just do it, to keep the Apple fanatics at bay
  • ability to edit ID3 settings

Other:

  • Get Zune Social cards onto places like Facebook, Live Spaces, and other web places.
  • Rename ‘Favs’ on Zune Social, to "Faves"
  • Allow users to use the word "Zune" in their profile status
  • more specific site for ZunePass

Ok, that’s the best I could think up. I borrowed a few ideas from other sites too. So what do you think? If you have any extra additional wishes that aren’t in my list, comment about this. I might add it up, if it’s worthwhile.

*NOTE anything highlighted in red has been resolved before Zune 3.

So that’s my ultimate wishlist. I may edit this, if features do come, or I find features worth adding.

Give it a read, comment.