Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good news for Zune users

Most of the news about today's release of the Zune 3.0 software and devices leaked last week, but one piece of interesting news remained under wraps.
Microsoft signed a deal with public Wi-Fi provider Wayport and McDonald's restaurants that will give Zune users free access, no password or Web page log-in required, to hot spots in more than 9,800 McDonald's. This addresses a potential "gotcha" with the Zune's download-from-Wi-Fi feature--the fact that users can't access any hot spot that requires a browser redirect (either to enter a password or accept terms). Now they'll have nearly 10,000 guaranteed places from which to buy or (with a $14.99/month Zune Pass) stream music wirelessly.
The other point I didn't mention in my previous Zune posts is the MixView feature. As you're playing one song in the Zune PC software, other related artists, songs, albums, and Zune Cards of other users with similar tastes will gradually fade in around the central image, which will be the artist or album cover for the song you're playing right now. This gives users a really cool way to find music they might like based on what they're playing now--particularly if they have a Zune Pass, which will let them play any suggested song immediately. As Wired's Listening Post blog pointed out, this feature makes the iTunes Genius feature--which I like--look a little bit primitive.

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