Today in NYC we're having a Zune preview day, a media event. We rented out this space between Chelsea and Flatiron, brought in an event production crew, some plasma monitors, some Zune devices, and a bar:
Media in attendance can get a demo of the software, of Zune Marketplace, see the integration with Xbox 360, see the accessories, and hold the Zune device in their hands, try out Zune to Zune wireless sharing.
We have a spot on the roof, too. (From last night):
"two drummers + four bass players + two samplers + five synthesizers + five cowbells + two octapads + one vocoder" = crazy delicious awesome. Don't believe me? Dodge MOKB has some MP3s; go see for yourself. Am I right? High Five!
<Cesar goes up for the high-five and . . . ? YOU decide>
Hello again from NYC. Yesterday was a packed day - all about music. We booked Colin Meloy from The Decemberists to play an accoustic set at Piano's. Piano's also provided a hearty breakfast: delicious.
We also had a kiosk set up for attendees to check out Zune: I'm not sure where you'll be able to find these kiosks, but I'll check with the team and post when I know. <Edit 1:02 PM EST> Charlie and the Zunecorps crew (awesome site) spotted a few kiosks at Wal-Mart.
If you're looking to learn a bit more about Zune Marketplace before you can get it on November 14, check out this article on Zune.net. And you can read about Microsoft Points - how they work, how to get them, how to use them - here. Happy reading!
Greetings from NYC - specifically from the offices of Girlie Action (an agency we work with). They were kind enough to let me use their wireless and comfy couch. And they hooked me up with some comp CDs (My Morning Jacket; Le Tigre Remixes; Tiga; Teddy Bears; The DFA Remixes; more). So I'm happy.
The NME party last night rocked. I wasn't there for all of it, but when I got there, The Sounds were on. I would strongly suggest checking them out. The 500+ crowd got into it: And like Donnie says, we met up:
Fun. As other Zune events come up, I'll make sure readers of this blog get invited. . .
So we’ve said all along that we are looking at expanding Zune to other countries, but we haven't made any official announcements about timing. Manyofyou have seen the recent statement re: U.K. availability. It was taken out of context, and it's not representative of the official Microsoft position.
Right now, everyone here's excited to launch Zune in the U.S. on November 14th, and I'll share additional details on other countries as they become available.
Not sure why, but I had a flashback: my first concert. Back in 1994, some buddies and I went to go see 30 Seconds Deep (now defunct). There's actually a record of the show online. That ska/punk show was the first time I moshed. Feeling nostalgic, I dug around and found their old EP for sale for. . . 2 Dollars?! A steal at any price!
Anyways, it got me curious about you, dear blog reader. Tell us about your first show. Who* did you see? Drop a comment.
·The Entertainment and Devices division reported 70 percent growth driven by strong performance across all of its businesses. Interactive gaming in particular more than doubled as a result of Xbox 360 platform momentum.
70% growth? That's what *I* call . . . (you guessed it. Big Money).
Am I right?!? <Cesar goes up for a high-five and gets rejected>
I've had a few arm-chair designers (and a few professional ones) ask about Zune and design. Curious myself, I sat down with Steve Kaneko: Design Director, Entertainment and Devices Division.
You can find his bio here (scroll down some). Now the interview:
Ok, before I ask you anything, I have to ask the burning question: why brown?
There were many who thought we were crazy when we proposed the brown (“suede” to us staffers) colorway. Why brown? Because love it or hate it, people feel something. Artists and musicians take chances everyday, and so will we. What few people haven’t seen yet is that we didn’t stop with just brown, we encased it in an “anti-freeze green” double-shot. There’s nothing like it out there that resembles the warmth and grittiness of certain styles of music. It is both formal and informal. And it appeals to men and women. It’s a color that’s both everyday and high fashion at the same time.
What role did design play in the project?
I think of the Zune culture as design driven. People here really believe in delighting users, are concerned about aesthetics, and have a holistic view of the brand experience – end to end. Design was there from day one when J Allard and GM Don Coyner decided to jump into this. Industrial Design had the longest lead time so the ID activity had no choice but to ask the fundamental questions: “who we are and what will we stand for?”
Was there a centralized design team in charge of all design aspects, or did separate teams design those elements?
We got some early concepts from a couple of firms before we had real product constraints or even new what our feature set would be. These concepts were useful but we ended up designing 90% of the device, in-house. Our internal designers and engineers have been working with an external firm to design the Zune accessories.
How did design work with the product planning team? How did you agree on the feature set?
Planning was embedded in our process as we designed Zune. We rely on them for understanding the customer base and to identify who our experiences should be targeted to. Agreeing on the feature set was both complex and easy. With Zune, smart people from all disciplines got in a room and hammered out what we’ll build this year. If there was any debate – we had a leadership team ready to make a call quickly so we can get on with it.
How important was it to have a unique visual identity?
We think establishing our own viewpoint as a brand, and that is the source for visual differentiation. I think the problem with so many devices (phones and pc’s included) is there are so few philosophically new viewpoints informing design aesthetics. Everyone is playing in the same sandbox of materials and colors that our customers are drowning in a sea of sameness. It was important to have our own visual identity, if it didn’t compromise doing the right thing for the customer in regards to ergonomics and ease of use.
How did design influence the Zune brand?
Like all great brands, the Zune brand we’re building is a combination of outside influences and inside influences. We work hand in hand with marketing and see marketing as inseparable from product design and development.
Zune has a battery life of up to13 hours, when listening to music. Oh. . . and that's with the wireless turned on. When you turn the wireless off, Zune has up to14 hours of battery life when listening to music, and up to approximately 4 hours for video or pictures.
<Strongbad voice>And now. . . the thrilling details! </Strongbad voice>
We got to 14 hours (wireless off) based on the following conditions: a single length average album of 128 kbps ripped WMA songs, played on repeat; with the EQ (equalizer) setting set to “none”; the default volume setting (i.e. not turning volume up or down); the backlight timer set to 1 second; and with no other activity (like viewing pictures, navigating, etc.) going on.
First off, I know that I've been put on the academic probation list here at Blog State University. I'll know more after I meet with vice-principal Allard. (I owe Dodge credit for this line of joke. He's funnier than me) .
Anyways, I wanted to show you folks the CSS tour poster. I even got them to sign it when they were here last week.
(notice a familiar logo?)
In other news, I noticed that the iPod has a Myspace page. It's cool, actually; I think I would sign up if I had an active account. We're trying to do something a little different, though: we want to connect people to other people vs. connecting people with a device.
Ever wonder the story behind those videos on http://www.comingzune.com? Me too actually, so I sat down with the guy behind them: Thomas Markert:
(Thomas in my office. Holding a granola bar and a talking rain)
He's the creative director on the Zune team and. . . well, here's the interview:
So tell the Zune Insiders about yourself. Who are you? Where’d you come from?
Hi there, my name is Thomas Markert. I am the new creative director for Zune. I spent the most of my adult life working for MTV, all over… new York, London, Singapore, Miami, berlin. For the last two years spongebob was my boss. I was launching nicktoons network in new York…
What's it like working here?
I just started. When I saw the brown device - actually with a nice green shimmer - I was really blown away by it. Funny thing to say, but that color combination made me want to work here. Plus I like to stand in seattle traffic 2 hrs a day. . . (not)
It feels very much like early mtv days. I'm loving the international flavor mixed with people from all over the U.S. I heard you are from Peru; I'm from Germany. Cool. Plus the honest love for all kinds of music shared by my colleagues. That is definitely something I was missing during my last job.
It's true. Born in Peru. (Tengo amigos en este blog tambien-hola!) Ok so the big question: About the videos and drawings on comingzune.com How did those come about?
It s really us getting in touch with the creative community, specifically with the people/studios/design houses we really admire. And have them do an expression of our brand, all about music, entertainment, plus friendship and sharing. We let them do their version of what they think friendship and sharing means. So what's on comingzune is these artist's interpretation and expression of the Zune brand. Motion Theory - this awesome company out of L.A. made "Two Little Birds." And Jeremy Fish did some amazing posters for us… I've been a fan of his for a long time… his turtlecamper rocks !
How many more will we see?
This is and will be an ongoing campaign, so you'll see a few more. I think the concept that we're doing fits in with the overall ethos of Zune: it's about people expressing themselves, and us (the Zune team) providing an opportunity to do that.
My indie self esteem got validated today by taking an Indie Cred quiz at. . . CNN?
You got 10 out of 10 correct on your first attempt.
Too cool for school: You are a certifiable indie god. You know which bands are breaking up before the rest of us simpletons have to read about it in Filter or on Pitchfork.
Go me, I guess. I'm a sucker for quizzes. And yes, I'm aware of the indie-irony inherent in identifying as "indie" based on a quiz on a mainstream outlet. And aware of the "i" assonance in that last sentence.
In serious news, can you drop a comment if you're coming tonight? If you're coming, write "I'm coming! I'm totally awesome!" Just kidding; don't write that.
Last night that song Cheated Hearts came on the radio as I turned onto my street. I drove around the block until the song ended. Have you ever done that? For what song would you circle a few times around the block?
I know it's been a long time, but things are nutso w/ launch on the November 14. One question that came up yesterday that I'll answer here: You can flag songs on your Zune, and when you synch your Zune to your PC, you'll easily be able to find it. You can also flag songs you receive via Zune to Zune sharing.
Edit: Tuesday 9:20 AM: I'm told it's "sync" not "synch." However, the spelling isdisputed. Fixing the spelling was a cinch ;)