Messenger for Zune HD released

Yesterday the Windows Live team at Microsoft announced the release of Messenger for the Zune HD.

I'm not much of a Messenger user, but one of the big things Microsoft added to the new version of the desktop app is Facebook integration, and that same functionality is built into the Zune version of Messenger. After connecting your Facebook and Windows Live accounts, you can see all Facebook updates and conduct Facebook chats from within the Messenger app. (There's already a standalone Facebook app for the Zune HD; this new app is best suited for users who straddle the … Read more

Welcome to the social, Apple

I followed Apple's music event keynote live on my MacBook and as CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated the upcoming Ping social-networking service for iTunes 10, I had a strange sense of deja vu. Ping lets iTunes users connect to friends, share their now-playing lists publicly, and make recommendations. It's built into the iTunes desktop client software and accessible from mobile devices as well.

Where have I heard this before? Let's see, iLike was kind of a social network. The Rdio subscription service has a social-networking element. But I'm thinking earlier than that. MySpace? No, that was more … Read more

Zune Pass comes to U.K.

As first reported by LiveSide, Microsoft has begun offering the Zune Pass subscription service to customers in the U.K. The Zune devices have never been sold outside North America, so there hasn't been much reason to offer the related subscription service, which offers unlimited streams and temporary downloads plus 10 permanent downloads a month. But the Windows Phone 7 software has the Zune HD's functionality built in, and with that phone platform slated to launch worldwide later this year, it makes sense for Microsoft to begin testing it now.

I was able to confirm the report for … Read more

Microsoft could create the ultimate mobile music service

This week, at Microsoft's annual conference for the partners who sell most of the company's products, Microsoft once again showed off its upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform and made a couple of interesting announcements that got me thinking. Microsoft has all the pieces in place to create the ultimate cloud-based music service for Windows Phone 7. All it has to do is stitch them together.

First, Microsoft confirmed that Windows Phone 7 devices, like the last couple generations of Zune players, will be able to sync music, video, and large images with a user's PC over a … Read more

Handicapping the mobile music services

I'm a big proponent of cloud-based music services for mobile devices. I struggle figuring out which 500 songs I want on my 8GB iPhone at any given time, and the problem gets worse as as I download more apps. So it's gratifying to see an explosion of mobile music services in the last six months. Start-ups and established companies alike seem to believe that the current model, where users transfer songs from a computer to their phone using a wired connection, is not long for this world. Instead, these companies are coming up with various ways to dispense … Read more

Bing-Zune integration still not working

commentary On Tuesday evening, Microsoft announced the integration of playable songs into Bing search results. At the time, when you clicked the play button by each song result, the pop-up window for the player said that this feature was "coming soon." I blogged about it anyway, relying on a forthcoming Microsoft blog post that said the feature was available "now."

I should have known better. Nearly three days later, the feature is still "coming soon." So I visited the music page of the Bing Entertainment site to get a taste of how this feature'… Read more

Microsoft adds music to Bing search results

Microsoft on Tuesday introduced the latest update to its plucky come-from-behind search engine, Bing, offering specialized results for music, TV, movies, and games. (CNET's Ina Fried has the full details.)

On the music front, Bing now offers playable search results: users can play a full-length version of each song once, and 30-second samples after that. The feature is similar to what Google introduced in October, provided by partner iLike. (Google also had a partnership with Lala, but Apple acquired that company in December and discontinued its online music-streaming service in May.)

If you like the song, you can then … Read more

What should Ballmer do with Zune?

After spending the last few years focusing on building a credible search engine and fixing Windows, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is now turning his eye, Sauron-like, toward Microsoft's consumer products.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that two longtime leaders in its Entertainment and Devices Division, President Robbie Bach and Chief Technical Officer J Allard, are stepping down. Although both executives are best known as the public faces of the Xbox, they also bear some responsibility for the Zune, Microsoft's portable media player and associated software and services. Bach was assigned to fix Microsoft's digital-media strategy in the mid-2000s, … Read more

Why isn't Verizon selling Zune Pass with Kin?

Earlier today, Verizon Wireless began online sales of the Kin, the first phone to feature a built-in version of Microsoft's Zune player. But I think the companies missed a historic opportunity to sell the first phone in the United States with a bundled on-demand music service.

The phone itself is getting mixed reviews, with praise focusing on its music and social-networking features, and criticism for its sluggish performance and feature omissions, like the lack of a calendar and the inability to send photos or direct messages to Twitter.

The price also seems high: the larger Kin Two, which costs $… Read more

Kin music experience will include Mac sync

This morning, I got a close look at Kin, the forthcoming phone from Microsoft and Sharp that's focused on social networking and multimedia playback. (CNET's Ina Fried has more details on what Kin is and is not.)

The Kin is the outgrowth of the much-discussed "Project Pink," which was first rumored to be a "Zune phone" back in 2007. There's some truth to that: the music interface is a lot like the Zune HD, organized around horizontal and vertical menus, and the phones will be able to stream music over the air to … Read more