Earlier this year, Microsoft’s portable media player and iPod killer, the Zune, was declared dead.
This came something of a shock to those of us, here in the UK, who were yet to see one on sale – let alone get our grubby little tech-hungry mitts on one.
In fact, for most of us limeys, our only exposure to Microsoft’s Zune has been via changes to the dashboard on the XBOX 360 and the way it handles movies and music.
I was therefore surprised when my tech-savvy boss announced that he had bought a Zune HD for his son.
As a fellow iPhobe (in the sense of not being Apple fanboys… not the luddite definition I’ve linked to), the boss was enthusiastic about the lightweight media player and beaming with eagerness to get the device set up for his son to open up on Christmas Day.
We enthused about the clear graphics and clarity of sound that the device produced.
That was yesterday.
Today was a different story altogether.
The boss had started to add a few of his son’s favourite tunes to the device; videos too.
Getting as excited as his son is likely to be, the boss then tried to add some games…
… therein lies the problem with the Zune HD in the UK.
Don’t get me wrong, my boss isn’t a gamer – not in my sense of the term.
Cards, golf and football – in the flesh – that’s my boss’s style; capping fools online in the latest FPS is definitely not his scene. He does accept that his son enjoys playing electronic games though.
Now my boss is fairly clued up when it comes to technology and the Zune’s rareness in the UK is probably the only reason he gave up trying to solve his problem himself.
The problem, in short, is that the UK Zune marketplace only seems to sell Music, Videos and Windows Phone Apps.
Having asked for my help, we trawled Google like some kind of nouveau detective duo – a cyberspace answer to the Morse and Lewis.
No matter how many times we tried to find out how to add apps or games to the Zune HD we ended up at the same unbelievable dead end.
The world according to Google was telling us that the way to get 3rd party apps onto the Zune HD was to install Visual Studio, Visual C# and a specific games development module and then download the app’s source code and deploy it to your Zune through the development module.
Time and time again we came to one explanation or another as to how this could be achieved.
To give my boss credit, he was more than willing to do this but I was incredulous. I couldn’t see how a company the likes of Microsoft could release a commercial product that required developer tools to implement software on – especially when they would be losing out on marketplace revenue.
Furthermore, I couldn’t see software houses releasing their source code to allow users to deploy apps to their own devices.
The boss agreed to leave it with me. I gave up on Google for a solution, investigating the Zune software instead.
At my wits end, I did something I have only ever done once before… I contacted Microsoft.
The Zune website offers a live chat support option. Once you’ve entered a description of your problem you are linked to a support operative who then helps you out.
I ended up speaking to a chap called Sergio who very quickly told me the cause of the problem and talked me through the solution.
A simple explanation of the cause of the problem is that the Zune was only ever officially released in the United States.
As such, the app marketplace is only available to people logged in with a U.S. Windows Live account.
My account is a UK account, always has been, always will be. If it were American, I’d never be able to buy UK Microsoft Points and so forth.
The simple solution, for non-US users, was to create a US Windows Live account, link it to a Zune account and then link that to the Zune HD.
A step-by-step way to do this follows… make sure you’ve downloaded the Zune Software and gone through the basic setup wizard on the Zune HD first.
- Make sure that the Zune is unplugged and Zune Software is closed.
- Log out of your normal non-US Windows Live account, if y0u’re logged in.
- Go to https://signup.live.com and create a new US based account. Even if you’re forced into selecting a .co.uk email address, if you select a US Zip Code for the address, then the account will believe it is American. I used 11561 and a New York dialling code.
- Once you’ve created an account and reached the main Windows Live page (you can view the welcome email to confirm) then go to the Zune site http://www.zune.net/
- Sign up for a Zune account, choosing United States as your location.
- Once you have completed registration, you can close your browser – we’re done with the web browsing part of the solution.
- Now go to your control panel and change your location to United States. Click here for advice on doing this in Windows 7, in Windows XP you can change this setting in the Regional Settings.
- Once you have OK’d the change to your location, start up the Zune Software and sign in using your new US Windows Live account.
- Plug your Zune in and let the software detect it.
- Click on Settings (at the top) and Linking (down the left) – link your US Windows Live ID to your Zune HD.
- You can now unplug the device and should be able to see a “Marketplace” option in the main menu. Your device is now set up as a US user, if you’re connected to a wi-fi connection you should be able to browse for apps and download any that you fancy… you may need to pay for some apps.
I was really impressed with the help and advice I got from Microsoft but disappointed with the availability of that advice to non-US Zune users.
Now that I’ve seen the device configured with apps as well as video and music, I’m actually quite tempted myself.
If you want to see a transcript of the chat conversation I had with Sergio D from the Zune marketplace support team, read on… Continue reading