ZUNE Firmware

According to Microsoft, the most up-to-date firmware version is 4.5 (114) for the Zune HD, which replaces the original player firmware that ships on the device, 4.0 (356). In the case of the Zune 4, 8, 16, 30, 80, and 120 players, the most current player software version is 3.3, which provides compatibility with Zune 4.2. Version 3.3 was primarily a bug fix release and was released on January 26, 2010.

The operating system for the Zune devices is based on the Windows CE kernel for ARM architecture and uses a distribution similar to the Portable Media Center found on the Gigabeat S. Zune’s native file compatible formats are:

  • JPEG for images;
  • WMV (Used by Zune Marketplace)
  • MPEG-4 – supported on all models except the Zune 30 device
  • H.264 – supported on all models except the Zune 30 device
  • Avi video (Xvid) support is included on the Zune HD (firmware versions 4.5 and later).
  • MP3 (used by Zune Marketplace)
  • AAC (unprotected) not AAC (.m4a)
  • WMA Pro (2-channel)
  • WMA Standard (used by Zune Marketplace)
  • WMA lossless

Any formats not compatible with an individual device are automatically transcoded into a compatible format.

The graphical user interface (GUI) (called the “twist interface” by Microsoft) has sections for music, videos, pictures, social, radio, podcasts, marketplace, games and settings. It is said to provide “two-dimensional navigation” for scrolling through items with its directional pad. In the music section, users can add songs to a quick playlist without reconnecting to the desktop software. In the picture section, the background can be customized using any image stored on the device (for viewing) as wallpaper. In the radio section, users can receive and play FM radio internally, with North American, Japanese, and European tuning ranges, and display Radio Data System information (usually artist and song) when available. When artist/song information are available, the device can search for the song in the Zune Marketplace for download or purchase. In the social section, users can broadcast the user’s profile and recent activity to others nearby.

The first updates to the firmware added sharing features (send, community, list nearby Zune users) as described in FCC filings. Firmware 1.1 allowed the device to inherit sharing capabilities described by codename Pyxis. Early firmware releases patched software bugs. About a year later, the much anticipated 2.2 firmware release added support for DVR-MS (Media Center Recorded TV) files, lossless playback, added wireless syncing, and GUI interface improvements.

Zune supports the Windows Media DRM digital rights management system, which is not compatible with other DRM systems and is not part of the PlaysForSure platform or program. Multimedia content is transferred through Media Transfer Protocol (MTP); however, its proprietary MTP extensions (“MTPZ”) place an interoperability barrier between the Zune and previous MTP-based software.

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