Usually, when organizations end their run they write long-drawn out scribes promoting every possible great thing that they did. For me, there was one great thing that Inside the Circle did: Exist. This site began as an extension of Zune Social and grew into a community all its own.

I can't begin to tell you all how proud I am of what this site has been able to do and provide. Each person that I brought on board brought with them a great voice, spectacular writing talent, and a common love for music that shined through each and every word.

Now it's time for Inside the Circle to end its broadcast day. The blog will remain here so you can reference its information. All of the writers can be found through various other services including Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, so you guys can always find us to stay in touch; to talk Zune, music, Xbox, TV shows, you name it.

We want to thank each and every person who has been with us through this endeavor. The great people on the Zune team, our consistent core of readers, the Microsoft MVP program, and anyone who has mentioned, participated in or otherwise supported us. We couldn't have gone this long without you and we thank you.

Here's a fistbump to the writers and to the readers!

We did good, you guys. We did real good.

All the best,

Marques Lyons
Microsoft Zune MVP
Editor-in-Chief, Inside the Circle



Two Nokia Lumia 900 AT&T Phones

The Nokia Lumia 900 is soon to be THE phone on AT&T. Come this Friday, April 8th, the phone will be the biggest launch ever for the AT&T. Shortly after, a number of Best Buy stores, nationwide, are getting in on the Lumia excitement with an invitation for you to join in. At events known as Behind the Tiles with Windows Phone, you will get the opportunity to get an in-depth look at how Lumia 900 does its thing. Each participating store will feature a live demonstration of the Lumia 900 and other great Windows Phones. You will also get to play with some of the Windows Phones while there. If this reminds you of the Zune HD preview weekend from a few years back you are not too far off. However there is one exception, at Behind the Tiles with Windows Phone you have the opportunity to win a Lumia 900 of your very own.

Behind the Tiles with Windows Phone will happen on a number of days in one of twelve cities towards the end of this April and into mid-May. Know that you need to register beforehand to ensure your chance of winning a Lumia 900. Registration space is limited and you need to register for a chance to win a Lumia 900 (registration code is: MVP). One phone will be given away at each event for a total of thirty-six Lumias across the twelve locations. Organized by date of the first event, below are the Best Buy locations featuring Behind the Tiles with Windows Phone events:

April 19, 23, 25 - 6:30P.M.–9:00P.M.

April 23, 25, 26 - 6:30P.M.–9:00P.M.

April 30, May 2, 3 - 6:30P.M.–9:00P.M.

May 7, 9, 10 - 6:30P.M.–9:00P.M.

May 14th, 16th, and 17th - 6:30P.M.–9:00P.M.

Interested In A March Madness Bracket Battle? Join In!

Zune Social: solar257 | By: Neville Williams | 3/12/2012 | View Comments

Similar to Zune Nation Fantasy Football, I want to invite you to get in on some fun sports action with friends this March. The goal is to try to accurately predict the winner of the men’s college basketball national championship. In addition to picking the winner, seeing how accurately you can predict the departure of all teams constitutes part of the fun. Do you have what it takes to pick the national champion and survive six rounds in Bracketville? Are you a resident bracketologist who knows how to sniff out the upset or recognize that Cinderella team? If so, spend 15 minutes, or 4 hours, filling out a March Madness bracket (or ten) to see how well you stack up to your friends. This is the first year I am filling out a bracket. I am psyched!

We will use ESPN’s Tournament Challenge page to run the bracket system. The deadline to enter is this Thursday, March 15th, by the start of the first game – it is when the tournament starts off in earnest. Click here to join the group. The password is: ZuneNation

Consumer Camp Goes East

Zune Social: solar257 | By: Neville Williams | 2/28/2012 | View Comments

180044333When our county was younger and still expanding westward there was a saying, "Go west, go west young man and grow up with the country." Typically attributed to Horace Greeley, I think this quote works well in describing the great work Marques has done in creating and and building the workshops known as Consumer Camp. It is with this thought of cross-country expansion that I am happy to say Consumer Camp is coming east to Cambridge, Massachusetts on Saturday, May 12th from 3-5 pm. Since Consumer Camp: Cambridge is happening on the Saturday before Mother's Day, it will have a theme of focusing around Technology and Mom. If you want to attend be sure to RSVP through the link on the event page below.

For those who do not know Consumer Camp is an event that seeks to better educate individuals on the great consumer products made by Microsoft. Typically events last 2-3 hours in length. Within the events are 10-15 minute demonstrations that offer tips, tricks, and how-tos on a range of Microsoft products. In between the demonstrations and at the end of the event there are opportunities for event attendees to provide feedback and interact with the various products demonstrated. It is a great way to learn and ask questions about your PC, Xbox, and Windows Phone.

Consumer Camp Cambridge will be hosted at Microsoft's New England Research and Development center, affectionately known as N.E.R.D. The Microsoft New England Research & Development Center (NERD) is a research and software innovation campus located in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts. The NERD vertical campus spans two buildings with its primary presence and conference center located at One Memorial Drive and a recently renovated and expanded space located at One Cambridge Center. NERD is home to some of Microsoft’s most strategic teams including Microsoft Research New England, Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V), SharePoint Workspace, Microsoft Technical Computing, Microsoft Advertising, Microsoft Lync, Microsoft Office 365 and more. NERD has become a hub of activity for the local tech community and has hosted more than 500 events and welcomed more than 40,000 visitors during the past two years.

As we get closer to May 12th, stay tuned for more information for now here's the important information about the event:

What: Consumer Camp: Cambridge

When: Saturday, May12th 2012

Where: One Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02142

More Information: Event Page or @ConsumerCamp

What Did You Think Of @Con_Bro_Chill’s @Zune Takeover?

Zune Social: solar257 | By: Neville Williams | 2/22/2012 | View Comments

Just look over your shoulder
Let me see who just showed up
It's the southern takeover
You betta’ tell ‘em I got dreams to stand on top, try and stop (pop pop pop)

-Chamillionaire

It’s the Twitter takeover… In case you did not notice yesterday, music artist and professional lacrosse player Connor Martin, of the band Con Bro Chill, took the reigns of Zune’s Twitter account yesterday. With little warning (ok, one tweet 3 hours prior), the takeover happened and wrapped up just a quickly as it started, lasting about forty five minutes overall. Rightly so, a few were confused (myself included) while others wondered why Zune is still doing anything since Microsoft stopped making the Zune HD,


@Con_Bro_Chill handled the criticism (twiticisim?) well. But I think the larger question focuses around the latter two tweets. Why?

For quite some time Zune has had a messaging problem. Not that it was saying something wrong just Zune was saying nothing at all. Remember how hard it was to admit the Zune HD was discontinued? As a result, having Zune do any type of publicity at this point seems pointless to many. I would agree. When was the last time Zune advertised in traditional media? One question that has yet to be satisfactorily answered is whether the brand known as Zune will continue to exist.

The last tweet above, by @cvas brings the point home. Right now Zune is like a gambling fiend that does not bet. I could see an argument claiming Zune has made a IBM-like transformation moving from hardware to services. Fine. Even with that transformation, where is the resulting messaging saying so? Without a heads up (Zune Insider or Zune on YouTube would have been nice places) the Twitter takeover seems random. Not the good random like pop-up retail stores. Instead, it is the type of random that leaves you scratching your head like the Nicki Minaj Grammy performance. Where does this takeover fit in to Zune’s current strategy?

 

 

Still those who participated in the event asked some good questions. On the positive side we now know Connor Martin uses TRESemm√© and he prefers crunchy peanut butter – what ‘lax bro’ wouldn’t? He even had some advice for those who wanted to follow in his foot steps and play professional lacrosse. I would hate to think the confusion discussed above deters future artists from considering doing the same. I just wish Zune would be more consistent about getting the word out. Your turn, what did you think?

That Is It For The New Windows Branding?

Zune Social: solar257 | By: Neville Williams | 2/19/2012 | View Comments

The new blue Window 8 logo featuring a Window-like logo next to the phrase Windows 8 as opposed to a waving flag like logo seen in the past

[Image Source: Windows Team Blog]

Recently the Windows Team introduced a new logo for Windows 8. I posted the logo above. As noted on the Windows Team blog, the new logo harkens back to Windows 1.0 more than the flag-like Windows logos seen for the past twenty years. See, the thing to the left of the phrase ‘Windows 8’ is a window and not a flag. Some believe the new Windows logo is missing something. Others see the logo as out of perspective. Still other's feel the new logo misses out on potential branding opportunities. This probably leads many to ask, "that is it? What about the other Microsoft products?" In short, no; there is more to come.

 

Among other topics, an introductory post from Pentagram Design, designer of the new Windows 8 logo, gives some insight into the future of the new Windows logo,

 

"[Pentagram Design's Paula] Scher and her team created a complete system based on the idea of perspective. The designers completed motion studies to demonstrate the transformation of the flag shape into a window shape, to show that they weren’t that far apart and would be an easy and elegant transition for the brand. (Marks that fit into this perspective have been created for other Microsoft brands and programs, but have not yet been implemented*.)"

*emphasis added

Picture of Windows Phone 7.5 with a slogan of "Put people first"Logo of Microsoft's Xbox 360 with a lighted gradient grey sphere upon which a green X is openingOffice 2010 Logo featuring four boxes of different sizes with a yellow to orange color gradient overlay

[Image Sources (top to bottom): Microsoft Pressroom, Microsoft Pressroom, Wikipedia]

Define: Brand Mark. Seems like Windows 8 is just the beginning. While the Windows 8 window may look out of place against the flat red square of Windows Phone, the lighted grey three dimensional sphere of Xbox, and the yellow-orange gradient squares of Microsoft Office it is entirely possible that these and other logos (Zune maybe?) have been reworked to fit the motion and perspective of the new Windows 8 logo. With that in mind, perhaps we should look to the future of these Microsoft products with the anticipation of fresh icons (and interfaces?) coming soon.