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May 5, 2008 9:01 PM
Posted by Benjamin J. Romano
Microsoft is improving the social network behind its Zune media player and online service, and adding TV shows and other video content to the Zune store.
The company announced tonight several updates, including a feature that allows people who buy unlimited monthly music subscriptions for $15 to load all the songs their friends are listening to on to their devices.
Julio Estrada, general manager of Zune Social, said the social aspect of Microsoft's service is a key difference from the dominant offering from Apple. This update is designed to let the more than 2 million Zune users help each other discover new music, he said.
"It becomes a dynamic subscription of sorts," Estrada said. "As your friend adds new music to their favorite play list ... that will go all the way to your device."
The device will update with new music each time it is synchronized with a PC.
Also, the Zune online store now sells television shows, including popular NBC comedies, and content from MTV, Commedy Central, Nickelodeon and others. The episodes sell for $1.99 each.
"NBC opted-out of their relationship with iTunes and selected Zune because we're providing them with the right flexibility to offer this type of programming," Estrada said. "... Part of the reason why we were able to bring NBC along with Zune is that our vision for video transcends Zune and includes Xbox as well."
Downloaded videos can be played on an Xbox using Zune software. However, videos downloaded via Xbox Live cannot yet be transferred and played on a Zune. "It's something we’re looking at," he said.