Microsoft grants Australians the powers of Kinect voice and Zune music

Australians will very soon have a voice on Kinect and music in their ears. At a press event in Sydney today, Microsoft Australia made two announcements regarding the Xbox and Zune services that will be enhancing the service later this year. The first, Kinect voice capability is going to be available from mid-December and Zune Music Pass will be available from November 16.

First and foremost, Kinect’s voice menuing capability, which was not available at launch to users signed in to Xbox Live with an Australian account, will finally be enabled mid-December. It’s possible this date might also be when the tile-based Xbox Dashboard will roll out globally. Microsoft explains the delay of this feature was due to localization for the regional accents.

The more important announcement is the long-overdue availability of Zune Music service in the land down under. Although this is definitely good news, there are still some gotchas.

The Zune Music Pass in Australia will cost $11.99 per month, giving users unlimited listening capability on their Zune software, Xbox and Windows Phone devices to a library of about 11 million songs at launch. Unfortunately, unlike (early adopter) Zune Pass subscribers in the US, Australian users will not be granted the promotional bonus to keep ten songs per month (since discontinued).

In addition, users who are shy to subscription services might be slightly dissapointed. According to Microsoft representatives, songs or albums will not be available individually priced. Apparently this is not something that will be available soon after launch either.

Update 2 (31/10): A Microsoft Australia representative has clarified after resolving the confusion with Microsoft US, there will be individual purchasing of songs and albums from the Zune marketplace at launch (Nov 16).

They however did not reveal pricing, but I anticipate it would be similar to when they were testing.

It’s nice to see the internationalization ship finally moving again and in the right direction but I guess one can’t ask for too much at a time.

Update: Microsoft Corp (US) has contacted me stating there will be individual song and album purchasing at launch of Zune Music in Australia. This contradicts what Microsoft Australia insists otherwise. I’m waiting to hear back after they duel it out.

33 insightful thoughts

  1. Not offering music for sale is stupid. Subscriptions are great, but for many (most?) people they are not of value (yet). I appreciate that subscription is music is probably the future, but I don’t think it’s time to abandon music sales. I have zero interest in a subscription. I would pay for it if it came with the 10 ‘free’ tracks (which it doesn’t).

    I’ve been patiently waiting for almost 5 years for Microsoft to start selling music via Zune in Australia, and when they finally get around to it…they release nothing but a subscription service. It’s like they want to fail. No marketing or international release for Zune, a pitiful effort of getting video on the international marketplace (the movie range in the Australian Zune marketplace is so paltry that it’s not even worth thinking about). I don’t think Microsoft ‘get’ it. A strong ecosystem comes from giving the consumer everything they could possibly want. iTunes isn’t successful because it is good software (obviously, it’s horrible software); iTunes is successful because I know I can go on there and find almost any music, movie, TV show or podcast I can possibly imagine. With Zune I get a small subset of that. Convenience and range trump a better product every time. Microsoft already have the best software and hardware…but their ecosystem is shameful.

    I’ve been using Zune for years, and now also have an Xbox and WP7. Part of my loyalty to this ecosystem was my faith that Microsoft would eventually get their ducks in a row and match their superior products with something comparable to Apple’s great ecosystem.

    I guess my faith was misplaced.

    1. Actually, if you do the math.. assuming you don’t like to listen to the same music thousands of time, you listen to A LOT more music for your money, then buying albums, or songs which you’ll get tired at some point in time.
      You can always buy songs on the Zune pass store, also.. so if you want to buy DRM free, high quality, classics (your classics), which you want to keep and listen for ever, well you can.

      1. Unless there is an error in what Microsoft has said I can’t buy songs from Zune. Only a subscription (which doesn’t suit me at all).

        I buy maybe 4 albums a year, usually from artists I already listen to. I always have my 32GB Zune with me containing all my favourite music. A subscription isn’t attractive to me at all.

        I WOULD get it if it had the 10 free tracks because the 10 tracks would cover what I would normally buy and I would enjoy the bonus of the free subscription music. But pure subscription has nothing for me.

    2. To add, give the 14 day trial a go, when it opens.. I am sure if you use it everyday, your music library will increase significantly, all by discovering new artists that you never knew about.

      1. I’m too old for new artists :)

        I’ve got so much music now that there is not much room for new stuff. I rarely get excited by new artists these days. I’ll definitely get the trial if available.

    3. Bobby,

      The new Zune Pass pricing, even if not including the 10-keeper, not a bad deal when you think about it.
      It is now 5$/month cheaper than before for an annual saving of 60$. Many albums have more than 10 songs, which is problematic when trying to use the 10-keeper credits. It actually yielded way less than 12 albums annually.
      With the new pass, you actually have 60$ in your pockets to buy music you really want to keep (that is if you ever want to cancel your Zune pass). At an average price of 10$ each, that is a full 6 albums annually. If you use the annual Zune Pass instead, you have an additional 20$ in your pockets (12 months for 99$). That’s an additional 2 albums.
      Not that bad considering that there may not be that many albums you REALLY want to have permanently.

      1. I want all my albums permanently. For music I just don’t have any interest in a subscription that takes away my music once I stop paying. I’d rather just buy the music I want.

        I love that a subscription is available, it’s just not for me.

        I just hope that it is also possible to buy directly so I don’t have to resort to using Big Pond or iTunes.

  2. That info is incorrect – Zune Marketplace will definitely offer a la carte tracks, albums and music videos starting November 16th. Faith re-placed.

    1. I hope you’re right. Please confirm your source!

      I was wondering about music videos because that is a part of the US Zune pass now. Having music videos (especially via Xbox) may just be enough to tip the scales for me getting a Zune Pass even though I don’t really care for a music subscription.

  3. Ah, was wondering when it would finally arrive here. I’m guessing it’ll mean we can access the Podcast marketplace from Windows Phone devices too?

    1. I highly doubt we’ll get podcasts with this too, only because no other country with Zune Pass other than the US has got the Podcast Marketplace yet. I suspect it might come eventually, but I don’t think they’re rolling it out at this point in time (for whatever odd reasons they have).

      1. They said on the Zune podcast a while back that there are legal reasons (because some podcasts have adult content) and Microsoft needs to have the relevant legal cover.

        Hopefully podcasts will come soon. They did say they were working on it (not Australia specifically).

  4. well getting there, now they need to let me stream the music to my Sonos :-)

    also, still no word on TV shows on AusZune? like buying/renting TV series’s?

    1. My guess is that Microsoft are going the way of letting content providers use Xbox/Zune as a platform for however they want to deliver their content (i.e. downloads/streaming/subscription, etc. will depend on the content provider).

      This fits in with Foxtel, ABC, Live TV, etc.

  5. That’s a good update.. yes to Track and albumn purchasing as well as Zune Pass (finally Artist Bio information on the WP7 Music Tile and in the Zune player!

    1. The artist bio information and the artist picture on the lock screen are very exciting. November 16th can’t come quickly enough.

    1. Zune Pass will only be streaming, as is any NEW Zune Pass subscribers globally (10 songs to keep is only for old US pass holders) I presume the purchased music will be DRM free.

      1. Assuming it works the same here as it does everywhere else…

        Zune Music Pass isn’t streaming only. You can also download music to your PC/Zune/WP7 devices. Zune Music Pass downloads have DRM, but purchased tracks are all MP3 format (i.e. no DRM). And yes, no 10 songs to keep, which is a deal breaker for me. I’ll just buy music as I want it and not bother with the Zune Pass.

        I suppose it’s possible that Microsoft will have different rules here than elsewhere, but I doubt it. Everyone sells DRM-free music these days. If I’m not mistaken Zune went 100% DRM free before iTunes.

  6. Another thing to remember is that the No Download Zune Pass @ $10.00 (even the new one in USA) is about $5.00 cheaper than the original Zune Pass with 10 songs that was about $15.00.

  7. Long,

    Do you know if streaming and marketplace functionality is available from the phone? Works great from the Zune software or Xbox (new preview) but not from the phone. Perhaps were still stuck without it for now.

    1. Matthew, Yes, the Music Marketplace is on the phone and Streaming/Downloads for ZunePass Holders is also available from the WP7 Music Marketplace. The phones can take a few days to update themselves to give it the access.

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