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Zune 4.0 update adds HD rentals, apps

updated 03:35 am EDT, Tue September 15, 2009

Zune 4.0 software and Zune HD apps

Microsoft tonight provided full details for its Zune update with the launch of the Zune HD, including features both on the device and the PC side. Both the player and the new 4.0 software now support renting movies in 720p and in standard definition from the Zune Marketplace. Crucially, the player is also now revealed to have non-media (but first-party) apps: the Zune HD will support just a calculator and MSN Weather out of the box but should get Facebook and Twitter apps before the end of the year. 3D games are also coming in 2009 and should include Audiosurf Tilt, Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition and Vans Sk8: Pool Service to start.

On Windows PCs, the new Zune software will add the Zune HD's Quickplay feature, which provides top-level access to favorites, new items and recents. It also now has a Smart DJ feature which, much like the Genius feature in iTunes, creates playlists based on a particular song. However, Microsoft's approach also lets users create these lists based on artists or albums and will give Zune Pass users lists created on the entire Zune Marketplace catalog rather than just their local collections.

The company is further giving access to the Zune Pass beyond the Zune app for Windows and will let users stream music through a compatible web browser, though it isn't specified whether users need Silverlight or a particular browser to access the content. Smart DJ is available through the web component.

Zune HD sales start at retail later today and include both a 16GB black version for $220 as well as a 32GB platinum-colored model for $290. Users can also custom-color the player through Zune Originals, where users can pick from blue, green and red aluminum hues as well as add custom engraved art from either a new set of artists as well as Major League Soccer teams and high-profile Xbox 360 game logos. Currently, all special colors and engravings are free.

Be sure to read our early look at the Zune HD, which is soon to be joined by a closer look at the fully unlocked player and software.

by MacNN Staff



  1. George3

    Joined: Dec 1969


    HD on a Zune screen

    HD. On a Zune. Really. Why? There is absolutely no point for HD on a teeny tiny screen.

  1. iphonerulez

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Looks good...

    and the hardware is supposed to be powerful, so we'll see how well it translates to sales. It's rather short on apps, but I would imagine the core functions would be enough to carry it for a while. I'd read the Roughly Drafted article, but I wouldn't go by that, since that guy is definitely anti-Microsoft. I'd like to hear feedback about the Zune HD by slightly less-biased individuals. I'm sure it will be an OK PMP player, but without the Apple ecosystem it's going to be somewhat weak in content delivery. I don't think it will sell in large quantities due to it's Zune heritage, but I suppose if MS is aggressive with advertising it will sell better than previous models. If MS can break 2% market share, that's a step in the right direction since it would be nearly double previous market share.

  1. luckyday

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You can't read. The Zune doesn't display HD on its screen. It can play HD content on a television through a docking station.

  1. dliup

    Joined: Dec 1969


    HD myth

    For clarification on Zune Myths, and why HD isn't HD.

    roughlydrafted myths zune hd

  1. toohightocomply

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Zune HD gaming and app downloads confirmed: Twitte

    The promotional video and leaked shots already made it clear but now it's official: the Zune HD will be a gaming and application platform. In addition to a few casual games, calculator and MSN Weather apps pre-loaded onto the Zune HD, the official Microsoft press release touting the launch contains this little nugget of gaming gold:

    "Later this year, Zune plans to release free applications such as Twitter for Zune and Facebook for Zune, in addition to fun 3-D games such as "Project Gotham Racing: Ferrari Edition," "Vans Sk8: Pool Service" and "Audiosurf(TM) Tilt." Games can be added to Zune HD via Zune Marketplace over the Wi-Fi connection or when connected to the Zune PC software."

    Hear that Nintendo, Sony, and Apple? There's a new handheld gaming platform in town. All that remains to be seen is how it will integrate with the Xbox 360.

    A bit more is revealed in a Seattle Times Q&A with Brian Seitz, Microsoft's Zune marketing manager. At the moment, the strategy is to keep all the apps and games free and developed in-house or in close collaboration with third parties -- no third-party SDK for devs to freely crank out apps just yet. Seitz is clear that games will be the primary focus of the "sometimes-connected" Zune HD and the Windows Marketplace is Microsoft's priority for handheld app development:

    "So what we didn't want to do was build two parallel app store experiences that didn't work together. Right now our product roadmaps didn't line up perfectly for us to snap to what they're doing or vice versa... Down the road if there's a way we can work with Windows Mobile or another group inside the company that's building an app store and take advantage of that, that's something we'll look into."

    Man, Windows Mobile 7 and the rumored OneApp app store can't get here soon enough.

  1. toohightocomply

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Btw, I got mine @ midnight

    Man, the OLED screen is awesome. I wish more devices had this. o_0 I seriously will be watching things on this simply for the OLED. (pitches ipod touch)

  1. toohightocomply

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Zune HD Disassembly

    Interestingly, upon opening up the Zune HD it has "For Our Princess" silkscreened inside the device. One of the Zune team members passed away during the development so they decided to dedicate this device to her. A very cool memorial.

  1. lamewing

    Joined: Dec 1969


    iPhone and ZuneHD

    I have an iPhone (phone, apps, and internet),a Sansa Clip+ (for the gym), and now a the 32GB ZuneHD.

    I have owned all of the Zunes and took them all back for refunds because of one reason only...they did not support unicode and so my Japanese/Korean/Chinese music song titles would show up as little boxes....grrr. This has been fixed in the newest iteration of the Zune hardware (i.e. they added the fonts this time around), so I thought I would give it a shot as I wanted a dedicated music player; my iPhone's battery is not quite a good as it should be

    What do I think? Built like a tank. Sounds better than my iPhone and Sansa Clip+. Not quite as good as a Sony X-1050 (but they sound incredible), but I like the Zune software versus WMP11 for syncing music. While some folks dismiss the wireless syncing, I say it is a godsend when it comes to daily updates to podcasts or to transfer a single album after the initial library sync. There is NO reason why Apple could not do the same thing.

    Overall, I am very happy with my purchase. I like it better than the Sony X-1050 (which is saying a lot) as that is a great DAP. I hope the battery life will turn out to be decent. :) I could care less about apps on my music player (that is what the iPhone is for), but others may not feel this way, so I guess I should mention that right now the apps for the Zune are very, very sparse. I am sure that it will get better with time, but never reach the level of the Apple App store. Who cares, really? Oh, the apps load slower than on the iPhone/iPod Touch. The calc takes about 4 seconds to load...weird.

    Will the ZuneHD kill the iPod, nope, never. The ONLY thing that will destroy the hold Apple has right Apple itself. Just as Sony let themselves loose the market to Apple due to their hubris, Apple could do the same....but not any time soon. I don't think it matters if MS sells nearly as many compared to the iPod, as long as the product is a solid machine and they make a profit in the long run, then all is good.

  1. shawnde

    Joined: Dec 1969



    You're a tool ... you're a pathetic attempt at PR for Microsoft. Get a life.

    Besides, MacNN is doing a better job than you.

  1. toohightocomply

    Joined: Dec 1969



    +1 for your sycophantic BJ you just gave MacNN and the Apple userbase as a whole.

    syc·o·phant (sk-fnt, sk-) n.

    A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.

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