The new Zunes, Zune Marketplace software and Zune 3 firmware was released today and WOW! I’m still going through it all, but, so far, color me impressed. The single best new feature is the wireless marketplace. Being able to browse the marketplace and then purchase or, with Zunepass, just download all the music you want is pretty dang cool. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to wirelessly get the TV programs or podcast’s. So far, it is just for the music, but it is a start. Other new features include a clock that I hope will quiet everyone on the Zune.net forums. It had to be one of the most requested features. One I never quite understood. Whatever. There is also the FM Tagging, though I have not able to try it. Games are new with this update and you get Hexic and Texas Hold em Poker. I’ve not played the poker game yet, but Hexic seems fun.
Microsoft made some UI changes on the device, but they are very subtle. For example, when listening to a podcast, you can press the middle of the navigation pad (called the squircle on Zune 2 and 3) and bring up a menu. In addition to the options that were already there, you can now get the full description. Small, but useful.
The desktop software looks and, seemingly, works far better than Zune 2 did. It ‘feels’ a bit snappier and has more visuals incorporated in it. For example, when playing music, a visualization displays along the bottom of the screen. Again, a subtle change but it makes the overall experience better. This software is so good that I would most likely use it even if I did not own a Zune device. It is a great media player/organizer. Oh, for those who are concerned about such things, it still has the silly ‘heart, broken heart, no heart’ rating system. Why we need to rate this stuff is beyond me.
I’ll have a more complete look at the package in the next day or so.