Zune fans have a new reason to rejoice — and no, it’s not due to the untimely destruction of One Infinite Loop. Audible.com has unofficially announced it’s bringing its library of audio books to the Microsoft-backed media player.
According to an email we received from Audible.com, the online audiobook store is rearing to go even though Redmond hasn’t announced a launch date:
I understand that you have contacted us today in regards to whether or not the Microsoft Zune is compatible with our service. We have great news! After much anticipation, Audible and Microsoft have completed negotiations on making the Zune AudibleReady! While we do not have an exact date as to when the device will be officially AudibleReady, we expect to make the Zune compatible before years end. Our Device Center on our website will be updated upon the Zune becoming compatible, so please be sure to check there periodically.
Hmmm…think Microsoft is saving it for a special event? Possibly along with some other Zune-related goodies? Throw out your conspiracy theory below!
All Zune news all the time
This paid review is for all the blog owners out there. If you are like me and have a blog with a few subscribers to it you may be considering ways to better manage them. When I first built this site I had no idea we would one day have a few thousand members and we now have over 3300 registered members and 1000′s of daily viewers. Many of you are repeat visitors and the number of subscribers to our sites feeds increases daily. Using technology such as RSS to make our content available is great for our readers and keeps them updated on site news and the latest content online. The drawback to RSS feeds and news readers is that many of you no longer have to visit the site in order to get your Zune news. You can just pick it up in your favorite news reader and miss out on some of the great images and advertisements we have on our site.
Keeping in contact with over 3300 members in the forums is as easy as posting a new topic on the boards but not everyone will see it and making direct contact and notifying ZuneMAX fans of the latest site updates and giveaways isn’t easily managed in the software used on our sites. I have been considering my options on how to better communicate with our members and a monthly newsletter was suggested as a great way to keep you guys informed on what’s happening at ZuneMAX.com and in the Zune Community as a whole. Running a newsletter from our forum membership should be easy enough but there are not really any built in tools for WordPress that makes it easy. I think we may want to look at a third party service provider for our newsletter subscription service and it has been suggested I take a look at Zookoda.com and the email marketing program they offer.
Zookoda is an all in one email marketing application for creating and managing email and newsletter subscription and broadcasts for bloggers. The application was built for bloggers to manage their scheduled newsletters and allows a blogger to build a subscription form, design and create professional emails that include their latest blog posts and site news, schedule recurring broadcasts including a feed refresh to update your email content and an extensive line of reporting tools for tracking and management of your newsletter campaigns Using newsletters and email marketing might be what our blog needs to keep you updated on what’s happening here at ZuneMAX.com and the world of Zune. If we develop a Zune newsletter using the Zookoda email marketing tools will any of you join?
When the guys from Zune started granting interviews we wanted to do one Zune MAX style. We decided to interview each of the Microsoft Zune employees with a blog in one huge interview but that may be too much. We figure there must be more then these three great people working on the Zune but these are the ones with Zune blogs and they were the only people that would answer our questions anyway. We could probably make this the longest blog post ever but you really want to get to these interviews. Theres some juicy tidbits of Zune information in here for those of us starved for some Zune news.
Without further delays ZuneMAX.com brings you the first installment of the Zune Crew Interview series.
Our first interview is with Dave Caulton who manages the Zunester blog. Dave gets to be the first Zune Crew interviewed because he returned the questions first and thats the only reason. Daves’ blog tackles the more technical side of Zune. He’s got some great information on transcoding files for Zune as well as the low down on Zune Sharing. Dave is a multi talented man with an eye for cool pictures and would probably make a great photographer. Dave has excellent taste in coffee he enjoys hiking cycling and has three kids.
His blog has some unique flavor to it much like the coffee he drinks. We found some amusing irony in the Google contextual advertisements on this Zune blog selling "Apple Imac Computers" as well as "Unlock you Ipod" services but the "Apple 60GB iPod with Video" for $299.99 and the "Apple 30GB iPod with Video" for only $229.99 from Amazon are simply priceless. If we choose to buy an iPod for $229.99 instead of a Zune for $249.99 this holiday season it’ll be from Daves’ blog for sure.
Daves’ a busy man it seems but he took the time to answer a few questions for us and we appreciate it. Thanks Dave.
1.) Has running the Zunester.com blog been what you expected or more?
Can you tell us what your goals and plans are with your blog?
DC: It was really a lark that started when I grabbed the Zunester domain name. I thought this was the obvious thing to do with it. The reception has been great – both the subscriber numbers and tone of the responses. My biggest fear was always that a blog would be useless; every post would have one of three results:
- Bore everyone to death (Blah blah I went on vacation, my kids are cute, etc…)
- Irritate folks with useless marketing fluff (“gee, everything my team does is AWESOME!”)
- Get me fired. (“hey, here’s a cool legal secret nobody knows!”)
It turns out there’s a real thirst for info and insights that are ok to talk about, so it’s been fun. As for plans, I like to think it fills a need for folks that want an inside view and more technical/strategic details than Bill (Zuneguy) and Cesar (Zuneinsider) necessarily offer. I’ll continue that going forward.
2.) How exactly is it that Zune is able to claim 100 hours of video time on the same size HD as the iPod and they can only claim 40 hours?
It’s all about the bitrate. Apple went to high bitrate 640×480 files, which are really overkill for a portable device with a 320×240 screen. There’s some merit to higher res for the video out scenario, of course. But we chose to optimize for the most video at the optimal quality for its screen.
3.) In your blog post titled "Zune’s transcoding feature – ‘splained!" you mention "Once the transcode is complete, it transfers the copy over onto the device – voila, you’re ready to play. It saves the copy in the cache so the next time you need to sync that movie, you don’t need to transcode it again."
DC: Does this mean we’ll need to keep a copy of all movies on our Zune players on our PC harddrive as well? Will we need 30GB of HD space on our PC just to keep a copy of our Zune data for sync?
No, only for the files that need transcoding. Music files will almost universally play, so there’s no need to transcode. Video files will transcode, and thus end up in the cache. But the cache has a maximum size limit (that the user can set) so old stuff gets dumped to make room for new stuff.
4.) How long does it take to transcode a feature length movie?
DC: I’ve got a smokin’ machine, so it’s much faster than real time. A more typical PC will take about real time; 30 min for 30 min of video. This definitely makes filling your device with non-native video an overnight process, but it’s worth it to have 8 hours of Dora and Cyberchase on my device before going on a flight with my kids.
5.) In your blog post titled "Zune Sharing explained" you list searching for nearby Zune owners to interact with as a feature. Will we have the ability to hide from or ignore other Zune users? Will the search function work on "Zune tags" and allow us to search for users by name as well as proximity?
DC: Yes, you can hide from or ignore other Zunes, and also turn off the WiFi. For now, the feature gives you a nice list of all nearby users; no filtering is enabled. Hopefully there will soon be so many Zunes that filtering will be needed
6.) The same blog post also states "Zunes will not (at launch) connect to the internet via your home base station network. Zunes can not download songs over the air from the internet service." Realizing the strong demand for both features can we expect the functionality will be added in the future via a software update?
DC: I’ve definitely heard this feedback, but can’t talk about future product plans.
7.) There has not been much said or shown about the Zune applying DRM to or sharing video. Will Zune apply any DRM to video files like it does music or remain DRM free like images? Will Zune be able to share videos the same way it does music?
DC: We looked at this, but the file sizes involved in video make sharing across the current WiFi impractical. That said, stay tuned. As an aside, “DRM” isn’t applied to files in the sense of encrypting them, rather there’s a device side limit on what you can do with sent audio files. It’s a fine technical point that won’t matter to 99% of your users, but it’s an important one.
8.) Is the DJ mode an actual broadcast or does the Zune act more like a server and require a file download for playback? Is there a streaming capability with the wireless or can there be in the future?
DC: At launch, Zune doesn’t have a “DJ Mode”. Standard answer about future roadmap comments applies.
9.) Do you consider the Zune to be a platform like the PC and Xbox or somehow different? Will Zune development be opened up to the first generation device?
“Open up” is a very big term. It’s really a continuum, and finding the right point is very important. Too open and you end up with a compromised user experience. Too closed and the community can’t add value.
DC: I think the best comparison is Xbox. We’ll open things up, but only very carefully and strategically.
10) What can you tell us about Pyxis?
DC: We’ve actually been talking about Pyxis all along. Pyxis is the code name for the first Zune device.
11.) Is there anything you want to add that no one has asked of you yet?
DC: Just to thank you for the opportunity to talk. The whole blogging thing has been a fun experiment for me, and the community of users and bloggers have been really great.
12.) What do you like most about working for Microsoft?
DC: I’ve worked at Microsoft for 10 years in various roles. Different parts of the company have had different good things about them. Before Zune, I worked on an established business (Office) and a hotly competitive part of the Windows business (Windows Media division). Zune is very different.
Once in a while Microsoft makes a serious run at creating a new consumer business from scratch. I had the good fortune to be a founding member of the team and to observe the building of the business from the ground up – a tremendous learning opportunity for me.
Look for the Zune MAX Interview with Bill Wittress coming soon
There have not been very many posts the past two weeks from me. It’s been slow on Zune news and I try to steer clear of Zune rumors I know to be untrue. There have been lots of rumors thrown around since Zune first leaked and I have tried to pick through and discuss what I feel may be at least possible. Many of the articles and topics here deal with what Zune will actually do now that some details have been released.
The past two weeks have seen some really good Zune rumors come and hopefully soon go and I’ve not commented on them. I have become keenly aware of what has been labeled "web echo" which is when someone puts out bad data and people run with it and make bad stories and they become these giant monsters of misconception and bs all wrapped up in one. There is an older term for this. It’s called "GIGO", garbage in garbage out. Our bud Cesar has had many posts related to "rumor and speculation" at the Zune Insider blog and I’ve read so many bad bloggers write just plain garbage about what it can or can’t do that I personally have decided to steer away from that stuff for now. Maybe a rumor about a Zune phone release or something from a reliable source would be considered but there are some Zune rumors that are plain obvious as untrue.
"According to Incipio Technologies, Microsoft should be coming with a 60Gb Zune mp3 player very soon. On the company’s website, Incipio announced the availability of a leather case for the 30Gb “and” the 60Gb Zune mp3 player. We can read "New! Microsoft Zune 30GB and 60GB Leather Belt Clip Custom Design Case".
If this comes out to be true, is it going to be available in November 14th? At what price? $399.99? What about dimensions and weight?"
But as you will see from my comments below the article there is a more probable reason for their announcing the 60GB leather Zune case in red and it is that the webmaster copied the 60GB iPod case in red when he decided they would get a head start on the market and release their product. Smart move on his part as they now have a few more links to the site from all the hype surrounding it. They may have even sold a couple 60GB Zune cases. Who knows?
Recently we heard from Gizmodo that Microsoft would be paying us to share with the Zune. Now this one I still find interesting because the new Zune DRM proposed by Microsoft may possibly allow for this type of service to function but I do not think we will see it in the first generation of Zune players. The features of this new DRM are most likely to be found in a Microsoft designed hardware device for total control over security. I chose not to write about that one because I wanted to hear what Microsoft had to say first and when Cesar answered back so quickly to that rumor he confirmed it for me. I know this one to be true but they don’t want us to know about it yet. Future Zunes will facilitate user generated content sales and may offer affiliate relations with users promoting the Zune MarketPlace in return for Microsoft Points but Cesar isn’t in the know on it and can claim so later.
The best example of things gone bad were comments Cesar made on his blog about the current Zune DRM and how it would "wrap all songs up in DRM". Kirk Biglione at MediaLoper wrote a stinging article based on these erroneous statements and the web went absolutely nuts with it and thus was born the term "viral DRM". Cesar clarified his comments and Kirk cleared things up also but did that really stop the rumor from spreading and infecting more people?
I don’t think so and I don’t want to be party to spreading untruths of any sorts. So, now you know why things have been slow from me the past two weeks. I don’t have much to say about the rumors running around right now and there hasn’t been anything new that I can share with you yet. Well, I did get my first of three interviews back from the Zune Crew and I’ll be posting those soon. Some great information in the Zune Crew Interviews coming at you soon from ZuneMAX.com.