Zune arriving in Europe through Xbox Live

27 May 2009

While we’re still waiting for the Apple iTunes Store to bring us Irish some good downloadable content in the form of TV shows and movies (no, Pixar animated shorts do not count), it turns out that Xbox Live will probably deliver the goods before this happens, after partnering with Microsoft’s Zune, which is a combination of music player and music/video service.

This Zune music and entertainment service will be available internationally through Xbox Live this autumn, but keep in mind that this is the service only, not the media player (which is still only available in the US).

You see, Zune is a strange one; while it has never reached the dizzying heights of consumer acceptance achieved by the iPod – nor has it tried for that matter – it clearly has buckets of potential.

Microsoft has just announced a new version of the Zune player itself: the Zune HD. It looks amazing, both in terms of style and capability; it will have a HD Radio receiver, HD video out, an OLED screen with multi-touch, and an internet browser.

Back to the Zune service – like the iTunes Store you can download the Zune 3.0 software to your PC (sorry Mac, you’re not included) and through this get music, podcasts, audiobooks, TV shows, films and the like. But it also has Zune Social – a place where you can see what other Zune members are listening to and buying, as well as being able to listen to full podcasts through Silverlight.

So what does this mean exactly for the Xbox Live subscriber? It means you’ll be able to view a wide selection of TV or film content, either through streaming, download to rent, or download to own.

Right now, US Zune users get to choose content from channels such as MTV, Discovery or NBC but, as per-region restrictions, Ireland and the UK will most likely get a pared-down version of these options.

However, Microsoft has plenty more plans for Zune: “The Zune experience is growing beyond a music player in the US. Zune’s international expansion starts with video on Xbox Live; eventually we’ll offer the full digital entertainment experience, spanning screens, devices, platforms and geographies,” said Chris Stephenson, general manager of Consumer Marketing for the TV, Video and Music Business, Microsoft.

By Marie Boran

Pictured:the forthcoming Zune HD, not yet announced for Europe, but fingers crossed!