Zune is a digital media brand owned by Microsoft which includes a line of portable media players, a digital media player software for Windows machines, a music subscription service known as a 'Zune Music Pass', music and video streaming for the Xbox 360 via the Zune Software, music, TV and movie sales, and the media software for Windows Phone. Zune Music Pass is for Music only and as of October, 2011 was reduced to $9.99(USD) a month for unlimited music rental and music video streaming.
On October 3, 2011, Microsoft announced that it has discontinued all Zune hardware, encouraging users to transition to Windows Phone. However, later, the announcement was removed and a Zune Support Team member tweeted that the page was added to a website in error. Finally, despite previous denials, the original announcement of the Zune hardware's discontinuation was restored to the Zune Support site.
The Zune Marketplace is an online store that offers music, podcasts, TV shows, movies, music videos, movie trailers and mobile applications. Content can be viewed or purchased on Windows PCs with the Zune software installed, Zune devices, the Xbox 360, the Microsoft Kin phones, or Windows Phone devices.
The Zune Marketplace was originally only available in the United States. In October 2010, certain Zune Marketplace content became available in additional countries: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Mexico, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. However, not all content is available in all countries; for example, podcasts and TV shows are not offered at all outside the United States.
Music - Initially offering 2 million songs, the Zune Marketplace has grown to offer over 14 million songs, all of which are now available in MP3 format at up to 320kbps and are DRM-free.
The home page of the Zune Marketplace shows featured music as selected by Microsoft, and the most popular music. Users can search, or filter by genres including rock, pop, dance, urban, and others.
Videos - Zune Marketplace offers television shows and Movies for purchase or time-limited rental. Some movies are available in HD. Selected content purchased via Zune Marketplace on the Xbox 360 additionally offers 5.1 surround sound.
Music videos are also offered for purchase.
Applications - Zune Marketplace includes an applications section where apps and games can be downloaded for the Zune HD. The store initially launched with 9 apps, all of which were developed by Microsoft and released for free. The selection has since expanded. Apps currently available include several games, Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live Messenger.
The Zune PC software also allows users to browse, purchase, and install Windows Phone 7 apps from Windows Phone Marketplace.
The first Zune model, the Zune 30, was released in the United States on November 14, 2006, featuring a capacity of 30 gigabytes, FM radio, and a 3 inch screen. The Zune 30 was initially available in black, brown or white. Retail packages contained a pair of basic headphones, a carrying case, USB cord, and a software CD.
The Zune 80 was announced on October 2, 2007, along with the smaller Zune 4 and Zune 8 to compete with Apple's iPod nano line. These were to be known as the second generation of Zune devices. The Zune 80 featured a 3.2 inch screen, while the Zune 4 and 8 come with an 1.8 inch screen. Both come with a new touchpad-style input device ("squircle", as fans called it) and new software. Additional file support for H.264 and MPEG-4 formats was also included, whereas the older Zune 30 requires these formats to be transcoded to WMV prior to sync. The ability to sync wirelessly (automatically if connected to a power supply), podcast support, and an upgraded song-sharing licensing are now available on all models. The new software also allows a Zune device to communicate with other Zune devices to share pictures and songs. A free firmware update added the new software features to the original Zune 30, and was released on November 13, 2007. The Zune 80 came bundled with a USB connection cord and premium headphones. The Zune 4 and 8 come with a USB connection cord and basic headphones.
The third-generation Zune 16 and Zune 120 devices were released in September 2008, coinciding with the release of the Zune Software 3.0 update.
On May 26, 2009 Microsoft announced the Zune HD, the first touch screen Zune. The Zune HD has HD Radio and the ability to display video in High Definition through a docking station (sold separately). The screen is multi-touch enabled and uses gestures such as swiping and pinching throughout the player.
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