The economy might be down, but Microsoft's betting a lot of your technology-challenged friends and relatives still bought or received new PCs this Christmas. Want to give them a helping hand - and give yourself more free time to get back to your favorite deathmatch or chat session? Tell them to surf over to Microsoft's new Windows Guides website and download - or email - some help.
Redmond has put together a nice assortment of simple guides for various chunks of the Windows Vista computing universe. Whether your family and friends have questions about Windows Media Center, gaming, working on the go, PC and family security, photo editing and sharing, or just getting started with the Windows desktop, adding new hardware, networking, printing, or getting remote assistance, there's a guide for them.
Remember the scene in War of the Worlds where everyone's electronics inexplicably just stop working? It turned out to be an alien invasion intent on harvesting the human race that was causing all the ruckus. We're fairly confident there aren't any buried alien war machines in real life, so why then are hundreds of users suddenly complaining about failed Zune players?
According to Gizmodo, the failures are permeating all across the country starting at about midnight last night. Owners claiming to be affected by the as-yet unexplained glitch are reporting that their Zune players freeze while loading and become completely unresponsive, turning their music player into little more than a high tech paperweight.
With the New Year only a day away, users have begun referring to the failures as the Y2K9 bug. However, any relation to the calendar year would likely be coincidental given that the players started giving up the ghost a day before the new year rings in.
Seemingly ruling out the possibility of a widespread hoax, Microsoft has released a statement regarding the failures:
"We are aware that customers with the Zune 30GB are experiencing issues with their Zune device. We are actively working now to isolate the issue and develop a solution to address it. We will keep customers informed on next steps via the support page on zune.net (zune.net/support)."
Hit the jump and let us know if you've experienced the same issue.
Cnet reports that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be using January's CES trade show to spread the good news about Windows 7. Ballmer is one of the keynote speakers, along with the CEOs of Ford and Sony, for the annual electronics extravaganza. The Windows 7 push is expected, but some observers think that Microsoft might have really big news in store for CES - perhaps, a Zune-based phone.
While Cnet's sources deny that a ZunePhone will be on tap for CES, it's a hard rumor to kill. Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry claimed recently, in a posting at Barron's Tech Trader Daily blog, that Microsoft would be rolling out a phone combining the features of the Zune and the Danger Sidekick handheld.
So, will early January see a new convergence device from the folks in Redmond, or just the expected emphasis on Windows 7, Xbox 360, and the like? Talk amongst yourselves, and we'll all find out in about three weeks.
Microsoft’s Zune is seldom in the news, for its much feted rival, the Apple iPod, hogs all the limelight. Now, Philadelphia City Paper’s Neal Santos has revealed that he spotted soon-to-be-President Barack Obama with a Microsoft Zune in a gym. Although Santos was too mesmerized to talk to Obama, he did notice the President-elect hop onto the “machine next to me and broke a mean sweat while reading a copy of USA Today and listening to his Zune.”
He later claimed in a subsequent blog that he knows exactly what a Zune looks like and that he was sure to have spotted Obama with one. However, he isn’t sure whether it was his personal Zune. The blogosphere allows scribes to freely dump such harmless stories, though of no real import, on their blogs.
This holiday season, Microsoft is taking aim at arch-rival Apple's iPod - and its companion iTunes software. This week, Microsoft cut the retail prices on 4GB, 8GB, and 16GB Zunes as well as on the Car Pack, Home/AV Pack, and Dock Pack. With the 8GB Zune now selling for $139 (was $149) and the 16GB model now selling for $179 (was $199), Microsoft is undercutting the price of comparable Nanos by $10 (8GB) and by $20 (16GB). The 4GB Zune anchors the lineup at $99, down $30 from its old price.
The Car Pack now sells for $69 (was $79), but the Home/AV Pack, also formerly $79, is now just $59. The Dock Pack is also cheaper at $39 (was $49).
To find out how Microsoft plans to use Zune software to drive hardware sales, join us after the jump.
The Zune, just like every other Microsoft product is a very functional and feature rich device. Unfortunately, it simply lacks the cool factor that seems to come bundled with every iPod ever shipped. Despite the intense struggles it has faced however, it seems pretty clear at this point that Microsoft is ready to stay the course and is content to scrap it out for the number two position. At least, this is the impression Joe Belfiore gave CNET News in a tell all interview on the future of the Zune. In the interview Belfiore recants his dream of a future where media flows seamlessly from Zune to Xbox or even a Mediaroom IPTV. On the subject of a Zune phone, Belifore didn’t have much to say other “stay tuned”. It’s hard to read much into that, but clearly it’s a lucrative market that could really help push the brand forward if executed properly. For those who haven’t been following the lineup, Microsoft just recently released new Zune hardware. They include a 120 GB hard drive based player to compete with the iPod classic, and an 8 GB flash drive based device to take on the iPod Nano. Both have been priced aggressively to compete with Apple going into the holiday season and in many ways are still a better value. From the interview it also seems apparent that Microsoft will continue to push hard on the value of the Zune as a social experience. Zune owners have the option of sharing playlists with friends and can even create profiles so everyone on the web will always know your favorite songs. The interview doesn’t reveal any new information, but presumably Microsoft must be carefully looking at devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch. Both represent products they can’t currently compete with under their current lineup.
You gotta give some credit to the Zune, who despite weaker-than-expected sales and the inevitable release of new, updated players from Apple’s popular iPod lineup (as well as an iTunes upgrade), attempts its hand at persuadable marketing with new emphasis on the media player’s wireless capabilities.
According to Microsoft, the Zune promises to take music discovery “to the next level” by offering users the ability to wirelessly download and stream millions of song from wireless hot spots around the country. Zune’s software and firmware updates will allow users to purchase music directly from the built-in FM radio as well as wirelessly access the Zune store on the go. And if wireless isn’t available, the media player will queue the download until the user is back in a connected area.
Microsoft is attempting to take advantage of the fact that its player has wireless capabilities and the user can purchase the song as soon as he or she discovers it from the radio, in a store, from a commercial, etc. Zune customers will also have the option to pay for music per song or by purchasing a Zune Pass.
Despite its diminishing popularity, Microsoft still plans on releasing new Zune models in 120GB and 8GB (flash-based) capacities. We’re unsure what colors will be released, but we do know that you’ll at least have the option of a black 120GB and a blue 8GB.
Though the Zune never bumped Apple’s iPod out of first place, it managed to make its mark in the digital audio player (DAP) market with wireless syncing and a bigger screen. The player became a little played out though, with weak sales making the Zune an after thought in the DAP market.
Engadget reports that the old 80GB and 4GB were discontinued at Wal-Mart, just in time to pave the way for their successors. The new Zunes will cost $249 and $149, respectively, with the 80GB iPod Classic costing the same as a 120GB Zune. Though the price tag may seem a little steep, the Zune’s features, such as the built-in FM Tuner and wireless capabilities, give consumers a little more bang for their buck.
If Apple has a giant target on its back, it's Dell that keeps taking aim. Earlier this week Dell launched its Studio Hybrid desktop, a hip looking miniature sized PC that will do battle with Apple's Mac Mini, and now the company wants to wage a war in the portable music player market too.
According to the Wall Street Journal, several Dell officials have indicated the OEM has been testing a digital music player for the past several months and that it could see the light of day by September, the same time millions of kids will be seen lugging their iPods back to school as dozens of those less fortunate look on in envy with their Zunes. But it's not exactly unchartered territory for Dell, who half a decade ago launched its Dell DJ line, a now defunct music player that never even had a chance to take on the iPod. Now Dell will get that chance.
Dell's new music player will purportedly feature a small navigation screen with basic button scrolls, and will sport a WiFi connection for linking up with online music services. Most surprisingly, the new player is said to be priced at less than $100.
Does Dell have a shot at slicing into Apple's market share with a budget MP3 player, or will it ultimately join the DJ in the gadget graveyard?
Microsoft, seeing the futility in polishing turds, went back to the drawing board to design the second rev of the Zune. (If only they’d do the same for Vista!) Fortunately for early adopters, many of the new features and desktop software will be made available for the first-gen Zune via a firmware update.