Unofficial Zune Frequently Asked Questions
This compilation of answers for frequently asked questions about Microsoft’s Zune was last updated on October 3, 2007 and is continually evolving. It is based on the best available news sources, but it is not official and is not associated with the Microsoft Corporation.
Table of contents:
- Q: What is Zune?
- Q: What are the Zune 2 players? (updated 10/03/07)
- Q: What will the Zune player look like?
- Q: What are the specifications of the Zune player? (updated 9/05/07)
- Q: What exactly can the Zune Wi-Fi wireless feature be used for? (updated 11/14/06)
- Q: What about the online Zune music store? (updated 11/14/06)
- Q: When will Zune be available? (updated 1/20/06)
- Q: What content will be preloaded on the Zune?
- Q: What accessories does Microsoft offer for the Zune?
- Q: Are there any official Microsoft Zune Web sites? (updated 11/03/06)
- Q: Are there any reviews of the Zune? (updated 11/09/06)
- Q: What are the future plans for the Zune? (updated 9/20/07)
Q: What is Zune?
A: According to Chris Stephenson, Microsoft General Manager of Marketing for the MSN Entertainment Business, Zune is
an umbrella brand for what he says is “a family of hardware and software products” targeting various digital entertainment services.
The first implementation of this will be the portable music player and digital music service…
Additional Zune-branded devices will follow, including a portable video player and, potentially, a portable game device, although Stephenson would not comment on the videogame element of the initiative.
On September 14, 2006 Microsoft released details of the first Zune product and on September 28, Microsoft released details on pricing and availability (small correction here) which are incorporated below. At midnight on October 2, 2007 Microsoft is expected to release the details of the second generation Zune media players, informally called the Zune 2.
Q: What are the Zune 2 players?
A: At midnight on October 2, 2007 Microsoft announced new Zune players (“Zune 2″) and related enhancements. These consist of the following:
- A new flash-based player in pink, red, green, and black with 4GB or 8GB capacities, priced at $149 and $199 respectively
- A new, thinner 80GB hard disk player in black only with 3.2 inch (diagonal) screen and premium headphones priced at $249
- Both new models feature the Zune Pad touch sensitive control button
- Available on November 13, 2007, they can now be pre-ordered from Amazon and other merchants
In a nice touch, while Microsoft has upgraded the Zune software and accessories, they are still compatible with the original Zune making the Zune a true family of media players. Details below the picture.
The original Zune devices (“Zune 1″) will get a software update and share new features with the Zune 2:
- Automatic WiFi sync via user’s home wireless network of music, movies, and photos when connected to an AC adaptor, in a dock or speaker dock accessory. Sync can also be started manually.
- Improved WiFi “squirting” of full-length songs, albums, playlists, pictures and even audio podcasts from Zune device to device. Consumers can now listen to any song received up to three times with no time restrictions, and they can now also pass along songs to other friends who have a Zune.
- The Zune software will now automatically import broadcast content recorded on Microsoft Windows Media Center for Windows Vista Home Premium or Ultimate.
- Addition of DRM-free music to the revamped and enlarged Zune Marketplace
- New Zune Social community web site launching in November 2007 for music lovers
New Microsoft Zune accessories will be released, but original Zune accessories will work on the new Zune devices and new accessories will also work with the old Zune 30GB device. The new accessories are:
- Zune Home AV Pack. Home Dock with three faceplates to accommodate each Zune device, wireless remote, AC adaptor and composite AV output cable (ERP $99.99)
- Zune Dock Pack. Home Dock with three faceplates to accommodate each Zune device and AC adapter (ERP $49.99)
- Zune Car Pack. Redesigned FM transmitter/charger and dashboard grip pad (ERP $79.99)
- Zune Cable Pack. Sync cable, composite AV output cable and audio cable (ERP $39.99)
- Zune Premium Headphones (ERP $39.99)
- Zune Leather Case (ERP $49.99)
- Zune Sync Cable (ERP $19.99)
- Zune AC Adapter (ERP $29.99)
Q: What will the Zune player look like?
A: Microsoft has released a number of images of the first Zune player which are available in the Zune Virtual Press Room. Here’s a selection:
Q: What are the specifications of the Zune player?
A: (Updated Sept. 5, 2007) Per the September 14, 2006 announcement linked above, the first Zune player will be much as rumored and have the following specs:
- The first Zune will support music, photos, and video although there will be no video sales initially. There is no specific podcasting subscription support. Zune will support music files in MP3, AAC (iTunes ripped CD format), and Windows Media formats. Zune will not be compatible with music services using Microsoft’s PlaysForSure technology. Rumors that Microsoft would pay to replace a user’s iTunes store purchases with Zune-compatible tracks are not true according to Microsoft.
- 30 GB disk
- Colors: black, white, or brown. Pink added in May, 2007. Watermelon red added in June 2007. There is also a special Halo 3 edition that is available exclusively at GameStop starting June 15, 2007.
- FM Tuner
- 3 inch screen that works in portrait or landscape mode. 320×240 resolution.
- 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi connectivity and file sharing. This is the big Zune differentiator and in a nutshell you can share music tracks with other Zune users via this wireless connection. However, there’s a catch. Any audio tracks that you share with others (and that’s anything, including tracks that you create yourself) will be tagged with digital rights management restrictions so that they can only be listened to 3 times in 3 days, whichever comes first. Shared purchased content will be bookmarked so that you will be reminded to purchase it. See the separate wireless question for more details.
- Battery Life is reported by Microsoft to be up to 13 hours, when listening to music with the wireless turned on. With the wireless off, battery life is up to 14 hours and up to approximately 4 hours for video or pictures, all of which is similar to earlier rumors and informal comments. However, some folks think the testing conditions are wildly unrealistic. By comparison, Apple’s 30GB iPod is rated at 14/4 hours (music/video) and the 80GB iPod at 20/6 hours. Also, note that the Zune’s rechargeable battery is not replaceable (e.g. see here).
- Zune will be preloaded with audio, video, and image content – see the preload content question below for details.
- Also included in the Zune box are a Zune Synch Cable, headphones, and a soft, “micro-suede-ish” pouch. See this Zune Insider post for more details and a picture of the pouch.
- A selection of Microsoft and 3rd party accessories will be available. See the Microsoft accessories question below for details on them. Other vendors who are working on accessories are Altec Lansing, Belkin Corp., Digital Lifestyle Outfitters (DLO), Dual Electronics, Griffin Technology, Harman Kardon and JBL, Integrated Mobile Electronics, Jamo International, Klipsch Audio Technologies, Logitech, Monster Cable Products Inc., Speck, Targus Group International Inc. and VAF Research. There’s another example here.
- Pricing was announced on Sept. 28: the Zune will have a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $249.99. On September 5, 2007, the MSRP was reduced to $199. See the Microsoft accessories question below for more details and pricing on them.
Here’s a video of the Zune user interface:
Q: What exactly can the Zune Wi-Fi wireless feature be used for?
A: (Updated Jan. 20) According to Microsoft’s David Caulton you cannot use the Zune wireless feature to:
- Connect directly to the Internet – e.g. all music purchases or downloads have to be made via a separate PC
- Connect to any non-Zune devices including your PC – e.g. you have to synch with your PC using the USB cable
- Connect to more than one other Zune simultaneously – e.g. no broadcasting
What you can do with the Zune wireless feature is:
- Search for and connect to another Zune in your vicinity
- “You can send them a song, album, etc… for a 3-day/3-play trial listen. Songs come over with metadata and album art (neat). After the 3 days or 3 plays are up, the song gets deleted from the Zune on the next sync, but the info on the song stays in a “journal” on your PC for later purchase or acquisition.” (Note that some purchased songs may have restrictions that prevent any sharing. See also this report that the Sony and Universal Music Group labels are being fairly restrictive of their popular artists.)
- “You can send them photos for unlimited viewing (and these can sync back onto the recipient’s PC).”
Q: What about the online Zune music store?
A: (Updated Nov. 14) The online Zune music store is called the Zune Marketplace and has “millions of songs,” but no video yet. You can either buy a Zune Pass subscription for $14.99 per month that gives unlimited access to all the music (while you continue to subscribe) or you can purchase individual musical tracks for 79 Microsoft Points per track.
If you are unfamiliar with Microsoft Points, they are a unit of “currency” introduced with Xbox Live for online purchases that can be obtained online with a credit card or from various retailers either online or in ordinary stores (generally in increments of $5 or larger). Currently 1 Microsoft point costs 1.25 cents in the USA so the per track fee in Zune Marketplace is 98.75 cents per track as compared with the Apple iTunes price of 99 cents per track. Note that prices may vary slightly at retail and if you buy Points locally, you will likely have to pay sales tax. The current understanding is that the Zune Marketplace will be incompatible with non-Zune players.
Click the thumbnail for a blowup of a screen capture of the Zune Marketplace user interface:
Q: When will Zune be available?
A: (updated Jan. 20) Zune became available for sale on November 14, 2006 in the USA only. The Zune Marketplace (for music) and the Microsoft Zune accessories became available on the same day. Among other locations, it is available online at Amazon.com (see our Zune Store) and Microsoft’s Cesar Menendez says the following is the complete list of retailers (on and/or offline) that will started selling the Zune on the 14th:
Toys R Us
Nebraska Furniture Mart
J&R Computer World
Virgin Megastore (select locations)
Microsoft has made no definitive statement on when the Zune will be available outside the USA, but there are rumors that it might not appear in Europe until 2008. On January 20, a Microsoft official stated that “Microsoft was not yet ready to officially announce when it would launch the service in Europe but it could possibly be out before the end of the year.”
Q: What content will be preloaded on the Zune?
A: Per the Sept. 28 announcement the following audio, video, and image content will be preloaded on the Zune when it ships on Nov. 14:
• Band of Horses, “Wicked Gil” (Sub Pop Records)
• Bitter:Sweet, “The Mating Game” (Quango Music Group)
• CSS, “Alala (Microsoft edit)” (Sub Pop Records)
• Darkel, “At The End of The Sky (edit)” (Astralwerks)
• Every Move a Picture, “Signs of Life” (V2)
• Small Sins, “Stay” (Astralwerks)
• The Adored, “Tell Me Tell Me” (V2)
• The Rakes, “Open Book” (V2)
• The Thermals, “A Pillar of Salt” (Sub Pop Records)
• 30 Seconds to Mars, “The Kill” (Virgin Records)
• BT, “1.618” (DTS Entertainment)
• Chad VanGaalen, “Red Hot Drops” (Sub Pop Records)
• Coldcut featuring Roots Manuva, “True Skool” (Ninja Tune)
• CSS, “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” (Sub Pop Records)
• Fruit Bats, “Live: The Wind That Blew My Heart Away” (Sub Pop Records)
• Grandaddy, “Elevate Myself” (V2)
• Hot Chip, “Over and Over” (Astralwerks Records)
• Kraak & Smaak featuring Dez., “Keep Me Home” (Quango Music Group)
• Kinski, “Live: The Snowy Parts of Scandinavia” (Sub Pop Records)
• Paul Oakenfold, “Faster Kill Pussycat (Featuring Brittany Murphy)” (Maverick Records)
• Serena-Maneesh, “Drain Cosmetics” (Playlouderecordings)
• 5 Boro: “A New York Skateboarding Minute” (Skateboarding)
• Radical Films: “Kranked — Progression” (Mountain Biking)
• TGRTV The North Face (Skiing/Snowboarding)
• A variety of images to personalize a Zune device, including 12 classic rock posters from “Art of Modern Rock”
Q: What accessories does Microsoft offer for the Zune?
A: Microsoft is offering 3 big accessory “packs” for typical usage scenarios, plus a number of accessories sold separately. The 3 “packs” are:
• Zune Home A/V Pack. The Home A/V Pack includes everything you need to amplify your Zune experience. This set of five products integrates Zune with your big-screen TV and the best speakers in your house. The wireless remote puts you in control from virtually anywhere in the room. When you buy the Zune Home AV Pack, you’ll get the AV Output Cable, Zune Dock, Zune Wireless Remote with Lithium Battery, Zune Sync Cable and Zune AC Adapter for $99.99.
• Zune Travel Pack. The Travel Pack includes everything you need to travel with your Zune device in style. This set of five products is designed to keep you and your friends and family entertained while you travel. When you buy the Zune Travel Pack, you’ll get the Zune Dual Connect Remote, Zune Premium Earphones, Zune Gear Bag, Zune Sync Cable and Zune AC Adapter for $99.99.
• Zune Car Pack. The Car Pack includes everything you need to hit the road with your Zune device. With AutoSeek, setup is easy, and you can enjoy your music on the go and charge at the same time. When you buy the Zune Car Pack, you’ll get the FM transmitter with AutoSeek and the Zune Car Charger for $79.99.
The individual Microsoft accessories are:
• Zune AV Output Cable. The A/V Output Cable lets you connect your Zune device to a TV and home stereo. Ideal for listening to music and showing pictures and video, the A/V Output Cable is simple to set up and use, and will retail for $19.99.
• Zune AC Adapter. The AC Adapter lets you charge your Zune device without a PC. For convenience, the AC Adapter will charge your Zune device in about three hours and will retail for $29.99.
• Zune Sync Cable. The Sync Cable lets you connect your Zune device to your PC or the Zune AC Adapter (sold separately). It works as a replacement for your original sync cable or as a spare for travel and charging, and will retail for $19.99.
• Zune Car Charger. The Car Charger lets you charge your device in the car while listening to your favorite music and even while using the FM transmitter with AutoSeek (sold separately). The Car Charger will retail for $24.99.
• Zune Dock. The Dock elegantly displays your Zune device anywhere in your home or office. Featuring a connector port and an audio/video output, the Dock is ideal for syncing, charging and connecting with home A/V equipment. (A/V connectivity requires the Zune A/V Output Cable, sold separately.) The Dock will retail for $39.99.
• Zune Wireless Remote for Zune Dock. Designed for use with Zune Dock (sold separately), the Wireless Remote lets you control your device from across the room. The Wireless Remote gives you quick access to your current playlist as well as full control over menu navigation and volume. The Wireless Remote will retail for $29.99.
• Zune Dual Connect Remote. The Dual Connect Remote offers convenient playlist control and two headphone jacks with independent amplifiers and volume controls so you can listen with a friend or family member. The Dual Connect Remote will retail for $29.99.
• Zune FM transmitter With AutoSeek. The FM transmitter with AutoSeek lets you wirelessly listen to music through your car’s stereo through the FM radio. AutoSeek automatically finds the optimal station so it’s easy to set up, and will retail for $69.99.
• Zune Gear Bag. The Gear Bag lets you bring Zune and related accessories with you wherever you go. The Gear Bag comes with a rugged exterior and fitted compartments to protect your device while you travel. The Gear Bag will retail for $29.99.
• Zune Premium Earphones. Designed exclusively for use with Zune, the Premium Earphones produce superior sound and feature a noise-isolating, in-ear design. With a convenient storage case and three earpiece sizes to choose from, you can listen to your music with added comfort and quality. The Premium earphones will retail for $39.99.
Q: Are there any official Microsoft Zune Web sites?
A: (Updated Nov. 3, 2007) Microsoft now has an official Zune marketing site at Zune.net (Zune.com is not owned by Microsoft). Microsoft has also started Zune-Arts.net which has some Zune related posters and videos. The old viral marketing site at comingzune.com now points to Zune-Arts.net.
While it’s not an official website, you can see the current crop of Zune TV commercials on YouTube. They were posted by Cesar Menendez who is one of the four Microsoft employees blogging about the Zune at Zune Insider, Madison and Pine, Zunester, and Zuneguy. Here’s one of the commercials:
Q: Are there any reviews of the Zune?
A: (Updated Nov. 9, 2007) See the separate Zune Reviews page.
Q: What are the future plans for the Zune?
A: (Updated September 20, 2007) Microsoft says they are in the personal media player business for the long haul and that the Zune rolled out on Nov. 14, 2006 is just the first step. In the future, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer says to expect video sharing and a variety of models including cell phones. There’s more speculation here. Finally, Zune futures rumors would not be complete without the one that users will get paid for sharing tunes.
More concretely, there are persistent rumors that Microsoft will introduce a flash memory based Zune (codename Draco) and an 8o GB hard disk model (codename Scorpio) for the 2007 holiday shopping season. For the latest rumors, check out the articles in the Zune Futures category.