The Zune HD may only be a couple of days old, but the app store for the device is already up and running.
A “Marketplace” which offers nine free apps is already shelling out software to Zune HD users across the land. The apps, which include calculator, weather, Texas hold ‘em, Sudoku, Space Battle 3, Shell Game… Of the Future, Hexic, Goo Splat and Chess will appear in a new “Apps” menu on the main screen once they’re downloaded. Reportedly, the apps look and act pretty solid, but feature adverts during startup that cause the boot time to exceed 30 seconds in some cases.
Either way though, they’re free – so you get what you pay for.
Microsoft's upcoming Zune HD will get more than a little help from Nvidia in going toe-to-toe against Apple's iPod and every other handheld media player on the market. Providing extra processor oomph, the Zune HD will use Nvidia's multi-core Tegra processor.
"Nvidia brings power graphics to the portable media player. This is a unique capability," said Jeff Orr, senior analyst for mobile content at ABI Research.
What makes Nvidia's Tegra so special -- and the Zune HD so promising -- are eight independent processors, which will go a long ways in helping the Zune HD handle high definition video and Flash content on its OLED touch screen without necessitating a bulky formfactor.
"Apple probably builds a pretty good SoC [System-on-Chip], but in terms of what they have already enabled [on the iPod Touch], I don't believe it has nearly the graphics and power management that Tegra does," said Mike Rayfield, a general manager at Nvidia. "We've benchmarked against everyone out there, and we are the most advanced in terms of graphics and overall power management."
The Zune HD will be just one of many devices to make use of Nvidia's Tegra processor. According to Nvidia, there are about 50 other gadgets in design right now with Tegra.
According to a recent info leak from Best Buy’s inventory system, we expect that the Zune HD will cost only $220 for the 16GB model and $290 for the 32GB model.
For those keeping tabs, this puts Microsoft at a huge advantage over Apple. Currently the iPod Touch costs $229, $299 and $399 for the 8GB, 16GB and 32GB models (respectively). Apple may or may not change prices around once the Zune HD hits store shelves, but as of right now things are looking solid up in Redmond.
For some time now there’s been speculation as to just what processor is under the hood of the Zune HD. Now, it has finally been confirmed that it is the Nvidia Tegra that’s allowing potential users to view video in HD.
PC Perspective’s Ryan Shrout was able to confirm the news after hearing about the Tegra’s role in the new Zune at Computex in early June. The Tegra was chosen due to its ability to decode a video stream using only 150 mWatts of power and output audio at only 20 mWatts.
With the Zune HD’s 3.3-inch 480x272 OLED display, it’ll be able to playback H.264 content and output video via HDMI at 720p.
Reports have claimed that Microsoft is currently in the developmental process of creating a mobile platform that mixes many elements of the Xbox and Zune – earning it the nickname “xYz.”
The rumored handheld is reported to be “unlike anything on the market today … think of a mashup of the Sony Mylo, the PSP, and the iPhone… errr, the iPod touch; [the MS handheld] doesn’t need access to a phone network. Although the Microsoft handheld is definitely a converged device, this is not a Zune Phone. Microsoft won’t compete with its Windows Mobile customers.”
The device will supposedly be based off of Live Anywhere, for the most part. “There will be a single online marketplace; the lines between the Zune, Xbox Live and Sky marketplaces will blur when the handheld launches.”
Given that both Nintendo and Sony have strong footholds in the handheld gaming sector, it seems like a natural progression for Microsoft to move here as well. Let’s just hope that this rumored handheld takes less pages from the book of Zune and more pages from the book of Xbox.
Oh snap, it's on like Donkey Kong, or at least like an intense level of Galaga. More specifically, Microsoft continues its advertising offensive against Apple with yet another commercial pointing out the cost of being hip, only this one targets iTunes and not MacBooks.
In the latest ad, financial planner (certified, of course) Wes Moss points out it would take $30,000 to fill the latest iPod using iTunes at a buck a pop.
"I don't know about you, but I don't have thirty grand laying around for music," Moss says.
His solution? A subscription service like Zune Pass, of course! "One costs a lot, and one costs a little," Moss adds, referring to the iPod with $30,000 worth of music and Zune Pass's unlimited subscription plan for $14.99/month. For those of you doing the math at home, $30,000 buys almost 167 years of Zune Pass.
There are obvious flaws in Microsoft's latest pitch, but the goal here isn't necessarily to discredit Apple's iPod/iTunes combination as a viable music platform (too late for that) as much as it is to promote Zune Pass. The question is, will it work?
File this away as a rumor until more details emerge, but for the time being, word on the web is that Microsoft is shopping for an ad agency to help launch and promote Zune for mobile phones. Codenamed 'Pink,' the project has made the rounds on the web before and refers to Zune software on mobile phones, which is somewhat less exciting than a Zunephone rumor coming true.
But is this all Microsoft has planned for Zune? As news site Engadget points out, "you don't audition three huge ad agencies just to launch a Zune app on busted ol' WinMo, so there could be something big cooking." Engadget surmises that we could end up seeing a consumer-oriented edition of Windows Mobile that integrates Zune services not just on the Zune HD, but on several third-party phones as well.
Any guesses as to what Microsoft is planning? Hit the jump and share post your predictions.
The end may be nigh for the Zune. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came up with a measured reply – equal parts of realism and escapism – when queried about the Zune’s future by BusinessWeek editor Stephen Adler at the McGraw-Hill media conference in New York. Though Ballmer reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to the platform, he admitted that the company will not be pouring a lot of money into it.
He said that Zune is both a device and a service. “And the future may be the software/ecosystem on other devices,” Ballmer went on to add. This is being read as a veiled hint at Zune’s impending demise as a hardware platform; Zune may be reduced to an iTunes-like service for other hardware platforms.
Maybe the aliens only hate Microsoft? After the company’s recent red ring around the rosy of ker-splosions, the idea's certainly not implausible. And now, a new player's bumbling onto the stage: the Games for Windows edition of Epic’s Gears of War.
Apparently, the game’s digital certificate walked toward the light on January 28, causing players to receive the following error message: "You cannot run the game with modified executable code. Please reinstall the game."
Microsoft and Epic are, as expected, staying up long past their bedtimes in order to mop up this mess, but have yet to give an ETA for their fix.
“Yes, this was a surprise to us too,” said Epic Games programmer “joeGraf.” “We aren’t casting blame or chewing anyone out. We’re trying to figure out how and why it happened so we can get it fixed.”
For now though, good ol’ Dr. Internet’s prescribed a simple remedy: set your system clock to any date before January 29, 2009.