Microsoft, about a year ago, released the XNA Game Studio development kit to the masses. This SDK allows the budding developer in all of us to write games for Windows, the XBOX-360 and the Zune. Microsoft has released an update to the SDK that allows development for the Zune HD. Added are multitouch features to allow the developer to take full advantage of the touch screen.
Already, there are a number of games and applets available for the HD. Don’t get overly excited, however. Some of the applications can only be installed through the SDK. Now, this is not as daunting as it may sound and there are great instructions, as well as links, here. Many applications can be installed simply by double clicking the icon.
So far, I’ve only tried a few of the non-game applications and the best, so far, is the zNotes application. This little gem is a simple note taker application. It lets you quickly jot down notes using the on screen keyboard. There doesn’t seem to be any syncing back to the desktop, but that is OK for now. If you carry around the Zune and need to make a quick note, this little app will certainly do the trick nicely. You can grab it here from RogueCode.
RogueCode also has a nifty little applet that is simply a level. Load the application, place it on a flat surface and then use this applet to see if the surface is level. A friend of mine showed me a similar app on her Droid phone. It is a cool use of the accelerometer. Get it here.
In case you are wondering, application development for the Zune, using the XNA SDK, is done in C#. C# is Microsoft’s answer to Java, only it is done right. C# is a nice language and not overly difficult to master.
Loading software onto the Zune HD is simple, but you must keep in mind there are trade offs:
When you are done with the application, press the home button on the Zune. The Zune will reboot itself, don’t panic, it is supposed to do that.
Currently, applications do not have access to the internet
The developers do not have access to the GPU for 3d gaming.
This could all change in the next release.
If you do not have access to the Zune HD, don’t feel left out: there are apps that work on the older generations from the original up to the Zune 120.
Zune.Net also has a ‘homebrew’ section in the user forums and Zune Thoughts frequently posts about homebrew apps. There, clearly, is enough demand for third party apps, Microsoft needs step up and do better. I do, however, appreciate the fact that they have released these tools.
Have fun with this.