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May 8, 2008

Microsoft buffs up Zune with 2.5 update

Posted by David Hunter at 8:18 AM ET.

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."

Filed under Argo, Beta and CTP, Microsoft, Tools, XNA, Zune

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