Over the past three week’s we’ve been working hard to bring you the next generation of what ZuneSpring started, the best in reviews, and responsible reporting on Microsoft’s entertainment ecosystem. We’ve always had two types of releases; ones that change the presentation and user interface of the site and upgrades to the back end. Fortunately we did a lot of the front end work for this update back in September when we released the last version of ZuneSpring so those expecting a totally different layout will be disappointed. Instead we chose to fix a lot of the back end issues that hampered us from achieving some of the goals we set out to do.

EntertainmentConnected v1 begins nearly exactly where its predecessor left off and that is by design. We wanted the site to still feel familiar to those who enjoyed ZuneSpring, after all it’s what got us here. We’ve tweaked the look and feel to be more conducive for different usage scenarios.

 

Hubs

We heard your outcry of support in favor of having a homepage closer to a blog layout and we wanted to help manage the giant tidal wave of information that will now flow through the news systems each day. We’re expecting the average amount of stories posting on enConnected frontpage to strike somewhere around five to ten stories a day. That’s great for everyone involved, you’ll get all the news you care about, and we’ll enjoy bringing it to you. To help folks who only want to see the latest coverage of one device or technology we’ve created the Connected Hubs, a place where you can get all the latest info about Xbox for example (xbox.enterconnected.com) These hubs are frozen right now but will go active on Monday.

 

Cleaning up the Backend

One big problem we had with the prior incarnations of the site was the ridiculous amount of time it took to manage a separate forum community using a different engine then the rest of the site. If this sounds familiar it’s because we’ve been on a crusade against separate systems on the site since we made the switch to WordPress a few years ago. That first year we managed to take a site using 12 different individual systems and slowly whittle them down to today’s grand total of 1. That means less building the stage and more using it.

 

Connected

Microsoft’s entertainment ecosystem now consists of three main branches; Xbox, Windows Phone, and Zune. It’s true that on some level these three solutions still need a lot of work before the work together seamlessly; it’s important to remember their convergence is inevitable. Someday soon the television show you’re watching on your HD7 will be able to be resumed on Xbox. (We pray.) Even today Microsoft’s “Buy Once Play Anywhere” take on the entertainment business has resulted in you being able to stream the same media from any of their devices. That reality got us thinking, why can’t you go to one play to talk to other users of not just Zune, or Windows Phone, or Xbox? Why not be able to connect with people who share your interests in these products on one site?

This is where Connected comes in, our brand new social network built right into the site. Got a comment about a show you’re watching and want to post a quick status about it? Do so and have all of your favorite friends across Zune, Xbox, and Windows Phone comment on it. Best of all it’s integrated into the same comments, galleries, and forums system. Yep we think it’s pretty awesome too.

 

Expanded News & Article Coverage

As well all know Zune news while frequent enough to generate spikes in traffic some weeks, is not something you can count on over time, and although that wasn’t our single motivation for shifting gears it would be disingenuous to not cite it as a factor. However make no mistake, we aren’t expanding our coverage to be greedy or grab as many eyeballs as possible. This revamp opens up an entire world of new topics for us to discover, and new discussions to be had. It can also lead to an epic pile of crap if not done correctly. That’s why we’ll be slowly ramping up our coverage of Xbox and Windows Phone coverage. Initially the only news we’ll be covering on Xbox will be deals on games and hardware, the latest things in the Live marketplace, and weekly game releases for the console and Windows Phone. Later this year we’ll be rolling out reviews of major console titles. It’s not that we don’t want to jump into that console reviews immediately, we do. We also want to do it correctly. On the Windows Phone side of things we’ll 100% right out of the gate.

That’s pretty much the tilt of the wind mills. We’ll be up bright and early at 9 a.m. EST tomorrow to start kicking ass and taking names, and we hope you’ll continue to come to us for all your Microsoft entertainment news and reviews. In the meantime feel free to browse the site and tell us what you like, what you don’t like, and what you would like to see. Until tomorrow morning we’re entertainmentConnected. now playing.