Microsoft this week released their "spring Zune update" which is version 2.5 if you are keeping track:
Microsoft Corp. today announced that Zune, the company’s all-in-one digital entertainment brand, is adding new software features and content to the Zune online store, music community and Zune Pass monthly subscription service. Zune is expanding its video store to include downloads of popular television shows from COMEDY CENTRAL, FUNimation Entertainment, MTV, NBC Universal, Nickelodeon, Starz Media (including Manga Entertainment), Turner Broadcasting, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and VH1 that consumers can sync to their device and enjoy on the go.
I’m hardly a fan of watching TV in the first place and watching on a tiny screen (whether on the Zune or iPod) seems excessively excruciating, but Microsoft did manage to grab NBC away from iTunes.
In addition, by further integrating the Zune music community into the core experience, the new software makes it easier for people to find and listen to the music they want, share it with friends, and take it with them wherever they go — whether they choose a Zune Pass or a la carte MP3 downloads. Zune Pass subscribers can now set up automatic, real-time feeds of the music their friends are listening to and add those songs to their collection or Zune device.
Following the above link provides a laundry list of new social networking features added to the Zune Social which is what Microsoft occasionally calls their online Zune community, but it takes a critical mass to tango in the social networking world and the Zune is still very much a niche:
And to use the social features, your friends need to have Zunes, too — which ours don’t.
And yours probably don’t, either. WSJ: "According to market-research firm NPD Group Inc., Apple had 71% of the U.S. portable-music-player market in the first quarter, compared with 4% for Microsoft."
It’s social networking where the price of entry is a proprietary hardware gadget. Microsoft isn’t the first vendor to chase that chimera.
Also of note: Microsoft is now sufficiently comfortable with the Zune program to expand beyond the USA – Zune is coming to Canada on June 13.
Update: Microsoft today announced the release of a XNA Game Studio 3.0 Community Technical Preview for building games for "the entire family of Zune media devices." Some notable features of v3.0 include using non DRM background music and "the ability to have multiple nearby Zunes wirelessly engage in an ad-hoc social gaming experience."
Today’s the big day for Microsoft’s XNA Team and they’re having a party:
Come join the members of the XNA team as we celebrate the launch of XNA Game Studio Express and the XNA Creators Club! You’ll see demonstrations of how you can build and run XNA Framework-based games on your Xbox 360 and Windows PC, as well as getting a chance to mingle with the XNA product team. Come and check out the final product, as well as samples developed in-house by the XNA team and friends. In fact, bring your own games developed using XNA Game Studio Express and show them off!
We’ll also deliver a number of short “mini tutorials” on XNA Game Studio Express and the XNA Framework based on your requests! Simply let us know what you want us to cover by leaving a comment on this blog post and we’ll work on pulling something together for the most popular requests. We will tally the results and then begin the talks promptly at 6:30pm Monday night.
You may recall that XNA Game Studio Express is Microsoft’s free toolset for hobbyist game developers on both the PC and Xbox 360 platforms. There may well be a formal press release later, but you can already download Microsoft XNA Game Studio Express 1.0 and the Microsoft XNA Framework Redistributable 1.0.
Update: Here’s the press release:
Your World. Your Game. With today’s release of Microsoft® XNA™ Game Studio Express and the launch of the XNA Creators Club, this phrase has never been more true. Based on the easy-to-use Visual C#® 2005 Express Edition and Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, XNA Game Studio Express opens up the world of game development to the masses and is now available for free to anyone with a Windows® XP-based PC at http://www.msdn.com/XNA. With the release of XNA Game Studio Express, Microsoft Corp. unveiled the XNA Creators Club, opening up video game development to untapped creative minds, enabling anyone to affordably build and play amazing game ideas on Xbox 360 systems for the first time ever.
The XNA Creators Club is available on Xbox Live® Marketplace for $49 (U.S.) for a four-month subscription, or $99 (U.S.) for an annual subscription. Both subscriptions provide aspiring game developers with access to thousands of game assets from Microsoft and key supporters such as Turbo Squid Inc., as well as white papers, specialized starter kits, samples and technical product support to help turn Your World, Your Game into a reality.
On Halloween Microsoft released their fall dashboard update for the Xbox 360 and it turned out to be pretty scary for some users – Microsoft Correcting ‘Live’ Update That ‘Bricked’ Consoles:
When Microsoft issued their anticipated fall dashboard update on Tuesday, 1080p support wasn’t the only new feature, as several users started reporting ERROR CODE E71, which essentially “bricked” their console, rendering it unusable for surfing Xbox Live or playing games — you know, everything an Xbox 360 is useful for.
Apparently it was an attempt to trip up users who had modified their firmware for nefarious purposes, but some innocent folks are also falling down. Microsoft estimates the number at less than 1%.
The update was supposed to provide treats not tricks with 84 new features prominently including HD DVD and 1080p HD TV support in order to get ready for the Sony PS3 onslaught coming this month. There’s also the observation that the list of features makes it ever more clear that Microsoft is trying to convert the Xbox 360 into a center of home entertainment.
In other Xbox news:
The XNA Game Studio Express beta is ready to go! Get out there and start your game programming career!
More info, assets, help, and everything you need can be found over at the XNA Homepage.
This intial release is targeted at PC (i.e. Windows XP) games only, but the final version which also supports Xbox 360 is due near the end of the year.