Microsoft kills the Zune

Microsoft will make no more Zune music players, building its future music strategy on applications incorporated in its Windows Phone and Xbox platforms, the company has confirmed.

Rumors circulated in March that Microsoft planned to stop making dedicated music players, but the company ducked the issue then, saying this year's new Zune devices would be mobile phones running Zune software. It went on to release a trickle of applications for the Zune platform later in the year.

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Copy files from your Mac to your Kindle

After I detailed the ins and outs of the new generation of Kindles on Thursday, I got a letter from Macworld reader Gerald A. Wingrove, who is intrigued by the Kindle but unclear how it works with his Mac. Since this is Macworld, after all, I thought it was worth a refresher about how the Kindle and the Mac interact. Gerald writes:

Over the years I have made great use of the free books available on the Gutenberg website. Is it possible, with a Kindle via the internet, to take onboard for reading, books from Gutenberg? As the Kindle has a USB port, is it possible to connect it to the G5 and have it appear on the desktop, so that PDF and MP3 files can be dragged and dropped into it for reading and listening to?

Is it possible to buy and use a Kindle without getting ones self tied into the Amazon spider’s web?

The Kindle’s been around so long, I didn’t really consider how a lot of people have never seen one and plenty more have never attempted to attach it to a Mac. So let me clarify matters a little.

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Oh, and about those iPods...

If you’ve followed Apple long enough you know that the company invariably holds an autumn “music” event—one where the latest crop of iPods is rolled out along with new iTunes features, yet another performance by John Mayer, and the occasional surprise. This year is different. Instead of a September music event, Apple issued invitations to an early October event that clearly focuses on the iPhone. What does this mean for the iPod?

If you’re a member of the press or blogging class whose blood-pressure competes favorably with that of a bloated tick, you’re already declaring the death of the iPods that aren’t running iOS. No more classic, no more nano, no more shuffle. Soon, we’ll have only the iPod touch to kick around (and, presumably, shatter in the process).

If, however, you traditionally sweeten the morning decaf-latte with Norvasc, you may have a more realistic perspective. And that perspective runs along these lines: While Apple is a lot about iOS in regard to its portable offerings and the iPod touch is certainly selling like gangbusters, there continues to be a need for a less expensive and more limited media player. This nicely describes at least two of the three traditional iPods now on offer.

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Amazon unveils $199 Kindle Fire tablet, $99 Kindle Touch

Amazon on Wednesday unveiled its much anticipated tablet, the Kindle Fire. The 7-inch tablet will cost $199. The company also announced a new $99 touchscreen e-Ink device called the Kindle Touch.

On the software side, although the Kindle Fire runs Android under-the-hood, the interface is all Amazon’s. The tablet unsurprisingly integrates closely with Amazon’s services, offering built-in apps that can access Amazon’s music library, movies, books, magazines, and games.

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Review: JVC UX-VJ3 Micro Component System

JVC's UX-VJ3 Micro Component System isn’t your typical speaker dock. For starters, it works with not only iPhones and iPods, but also iPads—and, even better, it accommodates an iPhone and an iPad simultaneously. The UX-VJ3 further sets itself apart by featuring speakers detached from the main body of the system, allowing for much better stereo separation than most other docks on the market.

The UX-VJ3 is available in both black and white, the better to match your iOS devices. (I tested the black version.) The main unit measures 11.5 inches wide, 7.5 inches tall, and 6 inches deep, with each speaker about 4.5 inches wide, 7.5 inches tall, and 6.5 inches deep. Unboxing the UX-VJ3 requires some patience: There’s a lot of packaging, quite a bit of sticky tape to remove, and many parts: In addition to the main unit itself, the box contains the two speakers, a wireless remote control, an AM-antenna loop, an FM antenna, an AC-power brick, a power cord, five "core filters" (more on these in a bit), and an instruction manual.

When you first look at the UX-VJ3, you’d be forgiven for wondering whether JVC forgot to install a dock-connector cradle. In fact, the system comes with two gigantic stickers on its face that point out the locations where the two connectors hide. To expose the iPad dock connector, you press a small, rectangular section of the silver trim that crosses the main unit vertically; a dock connector pops out, letting you dock your iPad, in landscape orientation, on the left-hand side of the main unit. The portrait-oriented iPhone/iPod dock instead spins around like a secret bookcase entrance. Once you’ve rotated it out, there’s an additional option to spin the dock—and, thus, your iPhone or iPod, into landscape orientation.

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Three tips for using iTunes on a small display

As Apple continues to sell more laptops than desktops, the number of people working with iTunes on small displays increases. While I have a 27-inch iMac on my desktop, which allows me to use iTunes efficiently and see plenty of information about my library, working on my 13-inch MacBook Air is a bit more difficult. If you only have a laptop, there are ways you can optimize the way iTunes displays its content to make it easier to manage on a smaller display.

1. Choose the right view

iTunes offers four different views, or ways the program displays your content in windows or playlists. (See “Pick the perfect view options in iTunes” for more on the different views. Note that the article was written before Album List view, the second choice on the view button, was added to iTunes.) While you may want to use List view or Album List view on a large display, you might find that Grid view or Cover Flow view works better on a small display. If your laptop is your only Mac, you may want to switch back and forth between one of these views and List or Album List view when you need to see information about your content or make changes to tags.

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Facebook and Spotify drop the other shoe

Recently, Facebook announced a new music service that incorporates streaming music services with such partners as Spotify, Rhapsody, Mog, Rdio, iHeartRadio, and Slacker. The idea is that when Facebook members listen to music from one of these services, they can elect to share a constantly updating playlist of tracks they’re playing. Those “friends” who have access to the same music service can then also play this music simply by clicking on a link to the track.

I commented on what this might mean in "Facebook and the Future of Music". One vital piece of information missing at the time was that, in at least in two cases we now know of, Facebook membership is a requirement to belong to the service. These services are Spotify and Mog.

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