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September 14, 2007

Zune 2 giveaway

by Harvey Chute

It's not out, yet. We don't know what it will look like. Or what it'll cost. Its existence has not even been confirmed by Microsoft.

But we're pretty sure that it's coming soon. And so today, we start a giveaway for Zune 2 - Microsoft's next generation high-capacity media player.

Most of our Zunerama giveaways are random drawings... but this one has a twist. By popular request, we're making this one a post-weighted giveaway. Your odds of winning increase based upon your post count in the Zunerama forums.

Warning: we have cruel and unusual punishments, and magical banning powers, for people who attempt to raise their chances through a bunch of one-word posts. Don't make me do it!!

Hit the comments link below, for more details. Good luck!

Comments | Permalink

September 13, 2007

VAF Octavio 1 for Zune

by Harvey Chute

Today, we close out our giveaway for VAF Octavio 1 for Zune - a self-contained 100-watt stereo system with a Zune cradle. The Octavio sports an 8" bass diaphragm, two 5.25" woofers, and two fluid-damped fabric-dome tweeters.

At 503 entrants, this was our most-entered giveaway ever! And our winner is: aapold. Congrats!!

Thanks to VAF for this generous giveaway! You can see more product info at this Amazon link.

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Zune DVD tutorial

September 13, 2007

ZuneTank finds an owner

by Harvey Chute

The toughest Zune case ever, ZuneTank, has a new owner thanks to tonight's giveaway. Zunerama member Dwain77 walks away with this aluminum vault of a case.

Thanks to everyone (all 275 of you!) for entering, and thanks to YoTank for a fun giveaway.

Enjoy your case, Dwain77!

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See Zune Players on Amazon: Black, White, Brown

September 13, 2007

Chad takes home a Zune

by Harvey Chute

Congrats to Zunerama member Chad Williams, winner of a new 30GB Zune player!

Thanks to everyone for entering. Stay tuned for our Octavio 1 drawing, taking place in the next few hours.

Also... later tonight we're unveiling the first ever Zune 2 giveaway. No, we don't know what they look like yet, either. Watch this space for more details.

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September 11, 2007

IME Dock - launch is here!

by Harvey Chute

I spoke this week with Integrated Mobile Electronics and learned that the long-awaited IME Dock is now available.

The IME Dock integrates directly with your vehicle for a clean, factory-installed look. The dock allows you to play your Zune's audio and video content through your car's entertainment system.

A standout feature: the dock is compatible not only with Zune but with other players, thanks to inserts that cradle the bodies and accept the sync ports of popular players. Supported players include Zune, video iPod, Nano, and Sansa.

The dock is able to connect to a broad range of factory-installed sound systems, as well as after-market stereo systems and displays.

In a conversation this week with Zunerama, IME CEO Jonatan Cvetko indicated that the dock is entering production and is available to pre-order on IME's site.

That's good news if you've been awaiting a quality integrated car dock for your Zune! And if your car is used by other family members that use different players - the IME Dock's versatility is a real plus. The dock system retails for $249.99, with additional docks available for $89.99.

Stay tuned for more as this much-anticipated Zune accessory comes to market.

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Find Zune accessories on Amazon

September 11, 2007

Eight ways to make Zune Pass even better

by Harvey Chute

In yesterday's blog, I sung my praises for Zune Pass - one of the best features of Microsoft Zune.

With Zune Pass, Microsoft is a step ahead of Apple, which has chosen - for strategic reasons, apparently - to avoid subscriptions in favor of its pay-by-the-drink model. I think that spells opportunity for the Zune team.

Microsoft now needs to take a cue from Apple's game plan: take what you do well, and make it even better - before the competition has a chance to catch up.

Here then, are eight ways to make Zune Pass even better:

1. Free trials for all. Early purchasers of Zune received a 14-day free trial for Zune Pass. We think this needs to be expanded, so that a free trial for Zune Pass is included with every Zune player. Beyond that, make the trial available to anyone, even those who haven't yet purchased a Zune player.

2. Extend the trial period. 14-days is much too short, because prospective subscribers resist downloading hundreds of songs when they know that their expiration date is less than two weeks away. If the free trial period were 3 months or longer, prospective subscribers are more likely to catch the "unlimited downloading" fever. That's what converts them from trial users to paying subscribers.

3. Get 100% participation. In my experience, most Marketplace tracks are available through Zune Pass; however, I occasionally come across tracks that are only available for individual download. While these are relatively few, it would make for a cleaner program if those holdouts could be convinced to get with the Zune Pass program. Make Zune Pass participation a mandatory requirement for being listed in the Marketplace catalog.

4. Offer video subscriptions. No one seems to think this can happen! Surprise us, and your competition, with this capability.

5. Expand the number of Zune players allowed per Zune Pass. Currently, Zune Pass downloads can be synced with up to two Zune players. If you have more players you want synced, additional subscriptions are required. This constraint becomes more important as new Zune models are released. When that happens, more Zune households will have three or more players. Open up the 2-player limitation to 5 or 6, so that a family can use a single Zune Pass to load up a couple of hard drive Zune players and some flash Zune players.

6. Allow full wireless sharing between Zune Pass holders. Zune Pass holders should be able to share songs wirelessly, without the 3x3 limit.

7. Consider a reward system. Experiment with rewards programs, where subscribers are rewarded with credits for download purchases. These and other variations have been suggested in our forums to help relieve some of the concerns from people who like to "own" their content.

8. Plug it! Make Zune Pass much more prominent in Zune advertising. This is tricky, I know. I'm not sure the public at large is ready for subscriptions. But Zune Pass deserves to be emphasized as a solid differentiator between the offerings of Microsoft and Apple.

So, there's some free advice from a pretty satisfied Zune Pass holder. Oh, and here's one more: do some of the above before Apple releases a subscription model of its own. It would be a shame for Microsoft to be trumped by Apple in the subscriptions game.

Comments | Permalink

September 10, 2007

Zune's best-kept secret

by Harvey Chute

You don't see it in Zune advertising. Most Zune owners don't take advantage of it.

Welcome to Zune's best-kept secret: Zune Pass.

For a flat rate of $14.99 per month, Zune Pass offers unlimited music downloads from Zune Marketplace. You can pull down any number of songs you wish, and play them as often as you like from your PC or your Zune player, for as long as you maintain the subscription.

As a Zune Pass holder, I'm not subject to the 30-second preview that Zune Marketplace typically offers. I can play full tracks of pretty much any music I stumble upon, from the millions of tracks in the Marketplace catalog.

I say "pretty much any music" because there are some songs - a small minority, in my experience - that are not available through Zune Pass.

There are some restrictions with subscription content. You can sync Zune Pass downloads with no more than two Zune players. And, you cannot burn Zune Pass content to CD. If you want to burn a track, you have to purchase it - at the flat rate of 79 Microsoft Points, or $.99.

After having used Zune Pass for the past ten months, I give it very high marks. I've downloaded thousands of tracks and about a hundred full albums with it.

It has completely changed how I surround myself with music. I used to go through a tiny agonization before buying a track from iTunes: Do I really like this track enough to buy it? How about the whole album? If I like this album, should I invest in the rest of this artist's albums? Or will I be disappointed, and have remorse over all of those $.99 charges on my credit card?

With Zune Pass, I can download with abandon - and do!

  • A friend introduced me to Joe Satriani a while back. After hearing a few tracks, I downloaded all of his albums through my Zune Pass. It was easy and painless, and now I have a complete collection of his music. I've found gems on his earlier albums that I would have likely overlooked if I hadn't downloaded the lot of them.
  • The other day, I heard that Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah had been covered over 30 times; with my Zune Pass, I could download every cover, on a whim, if I so chose.
  • Last Christmas, I downloaded dozens of Christmas albums and instrumentals; we really enjoyed listening to them over the Christmas season. There's no way I would have done that if I was paying $.99 per track.
  • Your download interests will differ, but the experience that Zune Pass holders share is the joy of unfettered access to a massive music catalog.

    People who are used to paying for individual content tend to value "ownership" very highly, and think of subscriptions as handcuffs. To the contrary: Zune Pass has been a freeing experience that has transformed and expanded my musical exposure and tastes.

    I'm confident, in fact, that subscription services are the shape of things to come. Some day, we'll all expect to get our music and other content from a monthly subscription, akin to how we get our cable, water, electricity, and Internet access today.

    In tomorrow's blog, I'll explore some ways that Microsoft can make Zune Pass an even better experience... and why this is a crucial part of Zune's success.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 9, 2007

    Win your Zune player and accessories from Zunerama this week

    by Harvey Chute

    Next week is a high-water mark for Zunerama giveaways. Click on any pic below to enter that product's giveaway:

    Wed Sept 12 - white 30GB Zune

    Thu Sep 13 - VAF Octavio 1 for Zune

    ...and more...

    Mon Sep 10 - Griffin Centerstage Case

    Tue Sep 11 - Incipio Zune Starter Kit

    Wed Sep 12 - Zune Tank from YoTank

    Wed Sep 12 - Case-Mate Signature Leather cases (5 of 'em!)

    Thu Sep 13 - DecalGirl Skin for Zune

    Fri Sep 14 - M2Convert for Zune - DVD software

    zune graphic

    See 'em all in our Giveaway Board!

    Comments | Permalink

    See Zune accessories on Amazon:
    Zune Travel Pack   |   Zune Car Pack   |   Zune Home A/V Pack   |   Zune Tough Skin

    September 8, 2007

    Zune 2 accessory pricing sheet leaked

    by Harvey Chute

    We've received a pic of a retail pricing worksheet, that shows "V2" pricing for Zune accessories.

    You can click on the blurry photo (don't all leaks have to be accompanied by blurry photos?) for a larger version.

    The price list shows:

  • Zune AC Adapter (V2) - $29.99
  • Zune Cable Pack (V2) - $39.99
  • Zune Car Pack (V2) - $79.99
  • Zune Dock Pack (V2) - $49.99
  • Zune Home AV Pack (V2) - $99.99
  • Zune Sync Cable (V2) - $19.99

  • More evidence that Zune 2 nears.

    Thanks to our source at GameCrazy, who saw his manager reviewing the new pricing and snagged a pic of it.

    Comments | Permalink

    Zune accessory giveaways

    September 7, 2007

    Zunerama gets a nod from Microsoft

    by Harvey Chute

    Recently, I was contacted by Microsoft and told I have been selected as a 2007 MVP (Most Valuable Professional) in its Digital Media area.

    What does it mean? Well, it's a nice recognition by Microsoft of our site and its contributions to the Zune community. There are about 3,500 MVPs worldwide, covering all Microsoft products and technologies.

    As an MVP, I have the opportunity to represent the voice of the Zune community back to Microsoft through various interactions. It also gives me candid access to other MVPs. I'm just learning what that's all about, but I hope it'll be a helpful network for what we do here.

    While I'd like to think this came about because of my charm and good looks, I think the award is a reflection of how Microsoft values the community that we have developed here at Zunerama.

    So, many thanks to all of you in our Zune community!! Oh, and by the way, next time you see me... that's Mr. MVP to you. :)

    Comments | Permalink

    Turn your 
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    Elegant fish, swaying plants, rising bubbles, full stereo music...
    Get 3D Aquarium

    September 6, 2007

    A market void: high-capacity + widescreen = good video player

    by Harvey Chute

    There's another aspect of the new iPod line-up that could be exploited. Follow my simple logic:

    a. The highest capacity iPods are the iPod Classics, in 80GB and 160GB.

    b. These are thus the iPods most suited to storing a lot of video and movies content.

    c. These do not, however, seem to be optimized for watching videos and movies. These still have a somewhat small screen (2.5"), and that screen is not widescreen.

    As with its earlier models, a lot of the potential screen space is consumed by the iPod's large clickwheel.

    I believe this could be an opportunity for Apple's competitors. If Zune were to come forward with a high capacity, hard-drive based player that has a larger, widescreen display... I think it would fill a market void right now.

    Edit: Paul Colligan of Zune Luv has some related thoughts that are worth checking out.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 5, 2007

    Any room for Zune in the new world?

    by Harvey Chute

    Gotta love those Steve Jobs events - designed to bowl over Apple's fan base and its competitors with one stunning announcement after another. Masterful!

    Now that the dust has started to settle, do opportunities exist for Zune amidst the new Apple line-up? Is there even room for a second major player in the digital media market?

    I think so. In my view, Apple is vulnerable (and I admit that vulnerable is a relative term here) with its iPod Classic and the Nano.

    iPod Classic. Apple limited the Classic's upgrade to a higher-capacity drive (80GB or 160GB), and a nicer, graphical UI. The larger hard drives are an off-the-shelf feature, easy for a competitor to duplicate; that differentiator shouldn't last long.

    And the improved UI is a catch-up (arguably a leapfrog) over the Zune's UI, which in turn was an improvement over the previous iPod's clunky UI.

    In that light, the prospects for Zune 2 don't look bad against the Classic - particularly if Microsoft pumps up its wireless features, slims the case down, keeps the FM radio, and prices it right.

    Nano. With the widening of the Nano, Apple made it an attractive flash player for videos. In doing so, though, it left a gap in its lineup. Not everybody needs or wants video capabilities on their players. For those who want a high-capacity, very portable music player... they have to settle for a 1 GB Shuffle, or go to the (now larger-format) Nano.

    Ironically, the ditching of the smaller Nano leaves a gap for those who just want an ultraportable music player with more capacity than the Shuffle.

    The flash Zune could fill that need.

    It was an impressive day for Apple, but this battle is not over.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 5, 2007

    Apple announces new iPod line-up

    by Harvey Chute

    This morning, Steve Jobs announced Apple's updated line of iPods. Along with an updated 80GB and 160GB video iPod (pictured above and now called "iPod Classic"), Jobs announced the "iPod touch".

    iPod touch features a 3.5" widescreen touchscreen, with iPhone-like features like the touchscreen keyboard and multi-touch interface. It's basically the iPhone without the Phone, and will retail for $299 and $399 for 8GB and 16GB models respectively.

    The iPod touch has WiFi, allowing iPhone-like web browsing and, in a new feature, wireless access to the new "iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store".

    Apple also announced a modest Shuffle update (new colors), and the video-enabled "fat Nano", both pictured below. It also announced a somewhat gimmicky collaboration with Starbucks, where the iPod touch will display the most recently played songs at Starbucks and make it easy to purchase those songs.

    Another impressive show of what's been going on behind the scenes in Cupertino. More details, comments, and reactions are in our forum thread.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 5, 2007

    Christmas 2007: the board is set; the pieces are moving

    by Harvey Chute

    In the digital player world, the battle for the Christmas 2007 shopping season starts today.

    All eyes are on San Francisco, where Steve Jobs is expected to make a significant iPod announcement at 10am Pacific.

    Part of the fun of Apple announcements are the twists. I love that moment where Jobs says "Oh, just one more thing..."

    After the phenomenal iPhone announcement of last January, Apple is in a tricky spot. Expectations are high for some iPhone-like features to freshen up the iPod lineup. But those niceties come at a price! How much is Apple willing to trade off features over pricing?

    In today's digital player market, Apple defines the game. Whatever Apple comes up with today, Zune and its other competitors will look for ways to exploit it.

    More to come as the announcement breaks.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 4, 2007

    Microsoft drops Zune 30GB price to $199

    by Harvey Chute

    Microsoft announced - moments ago - that it's lopping $50 off the MSRP for Zune - to $199.

    Speculation will be rampant that this is an inventory-clearing move... heralding the release of new models of Zune players. Microsoft is, unsurprisingly, mum on this point.

    The timing makes this an interesting gauntlet-drop. Tomorrow, at 10am Pacific, Apple announces its next line-up of iPods. I'm curious what the price points of those iPods will be - particularly if they bring in iPhone-like features, which may come at a cost.

    Regardless of the motivation, it's nice to see this aggressive move from Microsoft. They're in the fight, and swinging.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 4, 2007

    The humanity!

    by Harvey Chute

    Recently, my oldest daughter, who I love very much, and who is normally the very paragon of responsibility, left her Zune on top of her car and drove off.

    Yes, that's what I said. She - left - her - Zune - on - top - of - her - car - and - drove - off.

    As you might expect, the Zune hit the blacktop. It survived unscathed, thanks to the pink Griffin Vizor case it was enclosed in.

    I had given her the Vizor after the good work she did with her video review of the case.

    The Vizor did its job in protecting the case, sacrificing its pretty pink exterior in the process. See the comments link for some close-up shots of the Vizor damage.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 3, 2007

    Welcome, wooters!

    by Harvey Chute

    As a result of last week's Zune sale on woot, there are 6,300 new Zuners out there. Some of them found their way to Zunerama, and I want to extend a welcome to all of you.

    There is a lot of help available in our forums and throughout our site. Please make yourself at home in our little corner of the Zune world.

    In fact, one of those wooters, Lord Moon, taught me something this weekend when he pointed out that songs can be rated on the player. I hadn't used that function and for some reason had thought it had to be done on the PC with Zune software.

    Smart folks, those wooters.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 2, 2007

    Get mapped

    by Harvey Chute

    Are you on our Zune map yet? Join our Frappr map, and stake your place in the Zune universe.

    Just click the Join button below to set your pin.

    Comments | Permalink

    September 1, 2007

    More than giveaways

    by Harvey Chute

    This may (or may not) be a little-known fact: Zunerama gives away more Zune stuff than any other site.

    Since we launched last year, 134 Zunerama members have won accessories, players, software, and other Zune goodies. We have 91 more to be given away in the next few weeks, and more yet on the horizon.

    Why is this?

    Well, I think of the giveaways as a small part of our site - most of our time and energy goes into accessory reviews, forum discussions, the daily blog, and keeping up the information in the various pages of our site. (My recent favorite: Zune celebrity sightings.)

    But I really appreciate that so many Zune accessory makers have chosen Zunerama as the place to offer free samples of their products. They also enjoy that many of you winners have posted pictures, and reviews, of the Zune accessories that you've won.

    Anyway, Zunerama is about much more than giveaways, but as long as we keep getting offers from accessory makers, we'll keep administering the contests and giveaways.

    Comments | Permalink

    August 31, 2007

    My woot! Zunes arrive

    by Harvey Chute

    Nothing like unparceling a pair of brand new Zunes to make me feel all Christmas-y.

    One of these could be headed your way, with our September 12 Zune drawing. Good luck, Zuners!

    Comments | Permalink

    August 30, 2007

    "Leaked" Zune 2 glossy: real or fake?

    by Harvey Chute

    A few moments ago, the purported first shots of the next generation Zune models were leaked - according to tech blog Gizmodo.

    The marketing glossy shows an 80GB Zune 2 model, and a 4GB and 8GB flash Zune. Gizmodo questions their genuineness but indicates that they received the glossy from two different sources.

    Is it real or fake?

    The smaller player images below the main photo are clearly photoshopped - but those could simply be placeholders on an early draft of the marketing material.

    The doubleshot is not present in any of the images - instead a two-tone body is shown with the upper casing contrasting with the base. Signs of fakery, or an indication that Microsoft is ditching its doubleshot esthetic?

    On the flash Zune players, the two buttons for Back and Play/Pause have been moved up higher on the body - giving a "Mickey Mouse" layout for the controls. Makes sense ergonomically for a smaller-sized player. The center pad is featureless and doesn't show a center button - Gizmodo speculates, unconvincingly, that it may be touch-sensitive.

    No dimensions of the players are given. I sized the flash Zune's screen, and its aspect ratio is 4:3 - consistent with today's Zune. That's possible, although I would hope we'd see a widescreen format in the next Zune generations.

    Curiously, the ad copy below the 80GB Zune indicates that it comes only in black. Flash Zune colors are listed as black, red, pink, and green.

    No brown? Not too surprising. Some people love it, but it has been the poorest selling Zune color.

    I'm not quite buying this, yet. The ad copy wouldn't be much of a challenge for a prankster to mock up. Or, for Microsoft to "leaK" out to throw us off their trail.

    Our forum members seem to be likewise skeptical. What do you think?

    Thanks to SonnyZune for the tip.

    Comments | Permalink

    August 29, 2007

    Members-only giveaway: 30GB white Zune

    by Harvey Chute

    So here's the scoop, see? I'm perusing the forums the other day and stumble upon this hot lead from Jander. It's a line on a 30GB Zune - there's no other kind, right? Smelling a good deal, I traverse to Woot and pick myself up a couple of these bad boys.

    I'm patting myself on the back for saving some serious greenbacks, and I suddenly feel this strange sense of goodheartedness. I get to thinking... would it be so bad to share my good fortune with the other schmucks in this forum locality? A guy like me can use all the good karma I can get.

    So listen up. If you like the idea of a brand new white Zune from Zunerama, here's what you do:

    1. If you're not a forum member, you're missing out on a great Zune community. Join the forum. It's free and takes twenty seconds, even if you're all thumbs and fatfingers on the keyboard.

    2. Then head to our Members-Only Giveaway boards to enter.

    (While you're there, we have more goodies to give away - Zune cases, docks, stereo systems, and software courtesy of some friendly Zune accessory makers.)

    One lucky Joe - or Jane - will win this white Zune in two weeks, on September 12. Now get to it, folks - before I regain my sanity and change my mind. Outta here!

    Comments | Permalink

    August 28, 2007

    Homage to Pre

    by Harvey Chute

    Okay, here's the last off-topic post - tomorrow we're getting back to Zune business!

    But I wanted to share the pic above from a stop we made in Eugene, Oregon. One of the greatest runners of all time, Steve Prefontaine, died at this spot in a car accident in 1975, at the height of his career.

    Etched into the rock is a small statuette of Steve. Below it is a memorial - "Pre's rock" - and placed around it are small mementos left reverently by runners - old running shoes, race numbers, a couple of marathon finisher medallions, and even a heel bandage with a note written on it from a Louisiana girl.

    A sweet homage to a running legend.

    Comments | Permalink

    August 27, 2007

    Zune-mobile in distress

    by Harvey Chute

    Where have we been? Well, the Zunerama Zune-mobile was last seen driving by beautiful Mount Shasta, heading northbound on I-5...

    ...when we blew our Zune-mobile's driver-side rear tire. No problem, thinks I - throw the spare on, and we'll be on our way. Hmmm... no spare to be found. Oh yes... after a call to the dealership, I am reminded that our model of Sienna comes with "run-flat tires" in lieu of a spare. Only problem: our tire is gashed beyond the ability to run flat.

    So we call AAA, and a wrecker arrives in good time.

    We get towed to Weed, California. Hey, we think, this is a neat little town. It's Sunday, though, and the tire repair shop is closed. We call the emergency number, and wait.

    And wait.

    And wait. Four hours, and many phone calls, go by. We are definitely not high on Weed anymore.

    Finally, we arrange with Triple-A to get towed to the next town to the north, and in Yreka we get the tire fixed. It's beyond repair (sidewall issue). And unfortunately, with our van being an All-Wheel-Drive, this means we have to replace all four tires. An expensive afternoon.

    Comments | Permalink

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