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Microsoft Zune Finds a Use for FM Tuner

A new feature called “Buy from FM” will enable Zune users listening to the Zune’s built-in FM radio to tag, purchase, and download any song they’re listening to while they’re connected to a wireless network. If the Zune isn’t in range of a Wi-Fi hot spot, the device will queue the tracks and download them when the player is able to connect to a network. Microsoft tells us the “Buy from FM” feature uses Radio Data System and RT+ data feeds within the FM broadcast frequencies to identify song and artist data.

Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace gives customers the choice of purchasing and downloading albums or single tracks, or paying a monthly subscription fee of $15 for a Zune Pass that allows them to “rent” as much as they can fit on the player. Any downloads that haven’t been purchased become inaccessible once the customer cancels their Zune Pass subscription. The Zune can’t play music purchased from other online music sources, including iTunes and Rhapsody.

Zune Marketplace subscribers can share music via the Zune Card, a real-time playlist consisting of each customer’s favorite and most recently played songs that’s accessible from the Zune software or from a network-connected player.

Several other new Zune features are more similar to what other service providers already offer. The new Personal Picks algorithm embedded in the Zune software, for instance, is very much like the Pandora and Last.FM music-recommendation services. Personal Picks analyzes the music you listen to and recommend new artists, albums, and tracks that share similar attributes. Microsoft is also introducing a series of channels programmed by experts from magazines such as Billboard and The Fader, as well as deejays from KEXP public radio. This feature reminds us of similar offerings from Slacker and RealNetworks’ Rhapsody services.

The new features will be available to existing Zune owners via software and firmware upgrades on September 16. Microsoft also announced new models (including a 16GB flash player that will sell for $200 and a 120GB hard-drive model that will go for $250). Prices for the existing 4- and 8GB flash models will drop to $130 and $150, respectively.

A word of caution to consumers thinking of buying music from Microsoft: When online music services who have relied on Microsoft’s PlaysForSure DRM scheme have exited the market (including Yahoo Music), they’ve left their customers in the lurch. People who thought they owned the tracks they purchased can no longer play those tracks because their licenses can’t be renewed. Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace uses an entirely different DRM scheme, but if Microsoft ever decides to leave this market, the consequences for its customers will likely be the same. Fortunately, Microsoft also sells tracks in MP3 format without DRM.

  • chris312
    The FM tuner already had a use. It let you listen to the radio.
    No non-apple MP3 player can play iTunes music, so why list that as a con to this player? It's like saying a Windows PC is bad because it can't run Mac OS X.
    Zune Marketplace offers DRM-free music.

    I'm excited about receiving the firmware upgrade for my Zune later this month. I appreciate that Microsoft is going to give me the same features new buyers get, hardware allowing.
    Reply
  • silversound
    Whos gonna buy a zune when you can get an ipod at the same price?
    microsoft employees?
    Reply
  • starhoof
    silversoundWhos gonna buy a zune when you can get an ipod at the same price?microsoft employees?
    who is gonna buy I-pod when you can get a similar alternative like zune... seriously, ipods are overrated, and they are not any better than zunes,but if you have am ipod it makes you a "cool kid" just like other "cool kids" who have an ipod....

    i find your comment biased, you just seem like an apple fanboy, that it ? have you even played with a zune ??? its so much fun compared to ipod in my opinion.
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    silversoundWhos gonna buy a zune when you can get an ipod at the same price?microsoft employees?Well lets see, anyone who has some WMA files that Apple will not play? Sure you can convert one lossy file format to another and further loose audio quality. Sorry, even most cheap mp3 players play wma. That is just Apple being retarded because they hate MS so much. My old Zen Microphoto works just fine for me.
    Reply
  • daveloft
    This article has a very serious biased tone to it, I'm sure Michael loves his iPod. Can't have anything get in the way of that, even if it's a very compelling product with some features far beyond what the equivalent iPod can do.
    Reply
  • invlem
    Thats definitely a cool feature with the FM tuner. Countless times I've heard a song on the radio and thought to myself, 'hey I should remember to get that one'.

    Now I can just flag the song and it'll remember to get it for me, Kudos to MS for some innovative thought in this market.
    Reply
  • shadowofdawn
    Starhoofwho is gonna buy I-pod when you can get a similar alternative like zune... seriously, ipods are overrated, and they are not any better than zunes,but if you have am ipod it makes you a "cool kid" just like other "cool kids" who have an ipod....i find your comment biased, you just seem like an apple fanboy, that it ? have you even played with a zune ??? its so much fun compared to ipod in my opinion.
    Yeah pretty much any mp3 player is better than a ipod
    Reply
  • crockdaddy
    I always call IPODs the METOOpods.
    Reply