Zunes Expand, Add Wi-Fi Buying and Tagging

Microsoft has announced two new members of its Zune portable media player lineup—a $199 16 GB flash version and a $249.99 120 GB hard-drive based version—along with a software update that will enable all Zunes (new and old!) to tag and purchase songs directly from the built-in FM radio, as well as access the Zune Marketplace via Wi-Fi.

“Digital music services really come alive when they help people find not only the music they know they like, but the music they didn’t know they would love,” said Microsoft’s general manager of Zune global marketing Chris Stephenson, in a statement. “With the combination of subscription, wireless access to millions of tracks, and powerful discovery features like personal recommendations and the ability to buy music from FM radio, Zune is taking the digital music experience to the next level.”

Microsoft cites a Kelton Research study from earlier this year which found that 61 percent of music listeners say they find new music by listening to the radio. So, the new Zune software update will include a Buy from FM feature, which enables users to tag and purchase songs they hear over the radio. The system uses Radio Data System and RT+ data feeds embedded within many broadcast FM stations to identify the current track and artist; if the Zune user is within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot the song and be purchased and downloaded immediately (assuming it is available via the Zune Marketplace…a reasonably safe bet for mainstream pop radio). If no Wi-Fi is available, the Zune will save a queue of tagged songs and download them the next time the user hooks the Zune up to a computer or connects to a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Zune customers can either buy music on a per-track basis or purchase a $14.99 per month Zune Pass that lets users download or stream music to their Zunes or PC so long as their subscription remains current.

The Zune software update will also add channels and personal picks to the onlein Zune service. Channels enable users to check out pre-fab channels of new music or channels aimed at specific tastes or tasks, as well create their own channels to share with other Zune users. Personal picks are tracks and artists suggested by the “Zune recommendation algorithm” based on music and channels a user listens to, as well as the music tastes of similar listeners.

Microsoft will roll out the new Zune software September 18, 2008; the new 16 GB and 120 GB Zunes theoretically go on sale the same date, but they’re already popping up at some retail outlets.

The timing of Microsoft’s announcement isn’t a coincidence—Apple is widely expected to roll out new iPods tomorrow—and it’s somewhat ironic that buying-via-WI-Fi is a feature Apple introduced over a year ago in the original iPhone and iPod touch. The significance of FM tagging is sort of an unknown: although some segment of music listeners no doubt discover new music via FM, and some no doubt prefer Zunes to iPods because the former include an FM receiver…lack of FM capability doesn’t seem to have impeded the iPod from dominating the personal music player market. Existing Zune owners may find the new features a nice bonus, but they may not be the sort of selling points that win the Zune new converts.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robotic companions and computer-aided karaoke

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Mobile

24 must-have apps for rooted Android phones and tablets

Rooting your Android device opens up a world of possibilities, along with a few apps. Here are 24 of our favorites, so you can make the most of your rooted device and unleash the true power of Android.
Cars

Protect yourself and your ride with our favorite dash cams

Dashboard cameras can assist drivers in car accident claims, settle speeding ticket disputes, and even catch glimpses of incoming meteors, among other things. Here, we've compiled a list of the most noteworthy offerings available.
Mobile

Google Fi: Phones, plans, pricing, perks, and more explained

Google's wireless service, formerly Project Fi, now goes by the name of Google Fi, and it's now compatible with a majority of Android phones, as well as iPhones. Here's everything you need to know about Google Fi.
Emerging Tech

A 3D printer the size of a small barn will produce entire homes in Saudi Arabia

If you’re looking for a 3D printer that can comfortably fit on the side of your desk… well, Danish company Cobod International’s enormous new 3D house printer probably isn’t for you.
Deals

Need a ride? Amazon is slashing prices on popular electric scooters

If you’re not much of a cyclist or if you’re looking for a lazier way to zip about town, an electric scooter should be right up your alley. Two of our favorites, the foldable Glion Dolly and the eco-friendly Razor scooter, are on sale…
Emerging Tech

Unexpected particle plumes discovered jetting out of asteroid Bennu

The OSIRIS-REx craft traveled to asteroid Bennu last year and won't return until 2023. But the mission is already throwing up unexpected findings, like plumes of particles which are being ejected from the surface of the asteroid.
Emerging Tech

Trip to Neptune’s moon, Triton, could inform search for extraterrestrial life

NASA has proposed sending a craft to Neptune to study its largest moon, Triton. Studying Triton could offer clues to how liquid water is maintained on planets, which may indicate what to look for when searching for life beyond our planet.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover passes its tests with flying colors

The Mars 2020 rover team has been undertaking a series of tests to see if the craft will be able to launch, navigate, and land on the Red Planet. Called Systems Test 1, or ST1, these tests represent the first test drive of the new rover.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Petzl to Tikkid, here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

A hive of activity: Using honeybees to measure urban pollution

According to a new study from Vancouver, bees could help us understand urban pollution. Scientists have found an innovative way to measure the level of source of pollution in urban environments: by analyzing honey.
Emerging Tech

Spacewalk a success as astronauts upgrade batteries on the ISS

The International Space Station was treated to some new batteries on Friday, thanks to two NASA astronauts who took a spacewalk for nearly seven hours in order to complete the upgrades.
Emerging Tech

Asteroid Ryugu is porous, shaped like a spinning top, and is formed of rubble

The Japanese Space Agency has been exploring a distant asteroid named Ryugu with its probe, Hayabusa 2. Now the first results from study of the asteroid are in, with three new papers published.
Emerging Tech

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a super-speedy pulsar

A super-speedy pulsar has been spotted dashing across the sky, discovered using NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Very Large Array. The pulsar is traveling at a breathtaking 2.5 million miles an hour.