The wait for the big Zune refresh that a lot of us have been clamoring for is finally over. Today, the Zune HD launches, available from the Microsoft online store, Amazon, Best Buy, and others. Alongside that launch comes a much-improved Zune software and services package. That’s right, Zune 4.0 is here, and there’s lots to cover. Let’s dive in and take a look at all the major new features in Zune 4.0, as well as some of the smaller pieces of fit and finish that make this release shine, including the Zune Marketplace, Zune PC software, Zune on Xbox Live, and Zune.net.
From everything we’ve seen as it pertains to the Zune 4.0 software, this update is all about making music more enjoyable to listen to, easier to discover, and easier to manage. In addition, you get movies in the Zune Marketplace now (both rental and purchase,) Xbox Live integration, and a bunch of other features that make Zune 4.0 one of the best pieces of media management software that we’ve used to date.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Zune 4.0 is the Quickplay screen. Similar to the Quickplay area on the new Zune HD, the Zune desktop software gets similar treatment. Here you’ll be able to pin specific content to the area, get a look at new content you’ve recently added to your library, pull up recently played content, and also get direct access to your Smart DJ mixes. Smart DJ, you say? Yes, read on.
We were able to spend some quality time with the Zune HD a couple of days ago, and we put together this video walkthrough of the interface on the device. Unfortunately, we weren’t connected to Wi-Fi, so we weren;t able to show web browsing, downloading from the Marketplace, or Social, but this gives you a really good idea of what to expect when you get pick up your Zune HD (available for pre-order now) come September 15th.
Our favorite feature? I’ll probably be using the pinned items on the side quite a bit, especially for the recently synched stuff. Quick access to things like that have been much needed on touch devices. A runner up would have to be the quick scroll in the music browser. Again, it saves you on just quickly swiping a bunch of times, hoping to get to the right spot.
All in all, we’re impressed. Of course, we will have a full Zune HD review when we get our own device. For now, be sure to read up on everything we know about the Zune HD.
A few days ago we posted an editorial begging Microsoft to fix the Xbox Live friend limit that is currently imposed upon both Xbox Live and Zune users. Well, after years of being vague about it, the truth has finally come out. According to G4, a high-level Microsoft employee has revealed that the reason that the friend limit hasn’t increased at all, even after the launch of the Xbox 360, is Halo 2.
Halo 2? Yes. You see, original Xbox games have the friend limit hard-coded into them, and Halo 2 is an original Xbox game. Since it is still so popular, Microsoft thinks they need to keep supporting it. If they increase the friend limit, they need to take Halo 2 offline.
Please, for the love of all that is sane in the gaming world, implore your friends and countrymen to switch to Halo 3, or the upcoming Halo 3: ODST, so that we might have a more social Xbox Live.
Oh, and this still doesn’t explain the whole Zune Social thing, and Microsoft’s belief that it has to be tied to Xbox Live, for whatever reason!
Okay, I’ve had enough of the Xbox Live friend limit that Microsoft has imposed on us for far too long. I think this has gone on long enough, and I’m really not seeing a good reason for it. As many Xbox Live gamers know, the current limit on friends you can have is set to 100. The thing is, in the age of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and all the others, we are now used to connecting with many people in our social graph across many different services.
Now, all that said, there is still one more very annoying piece to this puzzle. Did you know that the Zune Social and Xbox Live share one common friends list? In other words, if you currently have 100 Xbox Live friends, and you go out and buy a Zune, and want to connect with people who also have Zune’s (but don’t necessarily play games,) you are out of luck. You’ll have to remove someone from your Xbox Live friend list to add someone else. This is, in two words, absolutely ridiculous. I get wanting to share the Zune and Xbox ecosystem, but to shoot yourself in the foot like this is just puzzling. I personally have at least 15 people that I would like to add as friends on the Zune Social, but I can’t, because my Xbox Live list is maxed out.
Amidst all the Zune news of the past day, we were curious to get the pulse out there. How excited are you about the whole Zune Social thing? We’ve gotta admit, when we saw some of the ideas that the peeps over at Microsoft came up with as it pertains to music discovery within Zune, powered by your social network, we were kinda digging it. So, what say you? Have you gone and customized a Zune Card for yourself, maybe even syncing a few to your Zune device? Do you keep WiFi powered on when you take your device out and about in anticipation of swapping tracks? Or are you one of those who just stay as far away from the Social as possible? Sound off and let us know.
As of this moment, Microsoft’s Zune team is deploying the new Zune 2.5 software out to the Internets, with the hopes that it will result in many more people getting down with the Social. We got a sneak peak at some of the new features that the crew is rolling out, and we must say, it’s very apparent that they’ve put a lot of thought and a lot of work into tightening up some of the loose ends.
So, first things first, a huge part of this update is about connecting with friends, and discovering new music. This is being done by way of the overhauled Zune Card, which is a quick snapshot of anyones Zune profile. It auto-updates to reflect the latest music played by a user, their favorite songs, and top songs from most played artists. Even cooler, you can take these Zune Cards with you by syncing them up with your Zune device. This will give you a glimpse into what your friends are listening to, and if you are a Zune Pass subscriber, you automatically get the last 6 songs from each category of the Zune Pass, for each person you add. That’s a new 18 tracks per Zune Card that you choose to sync to your device.
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