Known Johnson

November 27, 2006

Better check out a Zune soon . . .

Filed under: General — Tom @ 12:29 pm
. . . because it’s not going to last long. Alissa and I stumbled upon Microsoft’s “answer” (I’m trying to say that without a snicker now) to the venerable Ipod while at Target the weekend after it hit the stores and my immediate reaction was “Cool! I can try it out!” I really wanted it to be something bright and new that would change things and bring some much needed competition for Apple, but moments after starting to play with it, my brain was simply filled with frustrated half-sentences: “What the-? How-? Why is it-? How do you . . . ? What? I don’t get it . . .” And then my reaction settled on a very simple sentence: “This thing sucks.”Seriously – it sucks. Apple did something amazing with the Ipod: they made for one of the most incredibly simple user interfaces you could imagine in such a complex device. You don’t even have to think about it to make it work – there’s only one thing that might throw a new user off and that’s the scrolling wheel, and once you’’ve accidentally moved your finger across it, it becomes apparent what it does. The other four buttons are obvious – if you’ve ever used a VCR, tape, or CD player, you know those symbols. Zune, on the other hand, only has the two buttons plus something that looks like Ipod’s scrolling wheel, but it doesn’t scroll. Instead, you just have to click up and down and left and right – with no indication that this is how it works. Granted, you’d know this after looking at the manual, but the point remains that you didn’t even need a users manual to get this far with an Ipod.

What’s more, Microsoft’s implementation of this faux-wheel is ridiculous – this is how you navigate the items in your Zune. With the Ipod’s wheel, you scroll through your list, so if it’s hundreds of items deep, you just scroll fast and you’re through the list pretty quickly. With Zune? Click click click click click – I can’t type that word fast enough for you get the idea of how tedious this would get, but just imagine the clicking it would take to get from A to Z in a list of hundreds of artists or songs, especially if you’re browsing for one specific thing.

But that’s not all – there are many things I couldn’t possibly experience in my in-store trial that professional critics have now gotten a chance to say. I’ll point you to this one excellent article from the Chicago Sun-Times, and here are some of my favorite points both from the article and from others:

  • Zune is incompatible with Microsoft’s own Windows Media Player!
  • It also won’t work with Windows Vista when it comes out in a month – awesome planning, Microsoft!
  • You can’t buy just one song from the “Zune Marketplace” (Microsoft’s “answer” to the Itunes Store.) No, you have to commit to $5 worth at once, but when you’ve bought your 5 songs, you have 6.25 cents left over because Microsoft charges you 98.75 cents per song. Don’t think this is to save you the consumer any money – it’s to get you hooked on the Zune Marketplace because you’ve constantly got extra money tied up there.
  • You’re only renting the music you’ve paid for. Even if you’ve paid for it for 5 years, you’re still renting it. What happens when you stop paying for it? It stops playing. What a deal!
  • Even better, music you add to your library from your own CDs gets Zune’s proprietary bullshit Digital Rights Management added to it, as if you bought it from the download store in the first place. Meaning you can’t do anything you want with the music you’ve already owned for years, either.

The funny thing about this is that I keep seeing commercials for Zune and all it shows is people swaying in parks and such but never the actual player. Oh, you might glimpse it in someone’s hand, but it’s rarely in focus enough to really see it. They’re marketing it as a lifestyle choice rather than a device, and that would be fine if it really did redefine people’s lives in such a way that made them seem so peaceful and happy, but that product already exists. Microsoft’s attempt at knocking it – Ipod – out of the marketplace with these ugly, old looking advertisements (seriously – they look like they were filmed in the 70s) is laughable at best, especially when the product they’re pushing is really just going to make its users quite angry at what it prevents them from doing and how difficult it makes what should really be very easy.

So, get out and check out a Zune. As the article suggests, it’s not going to be around long.

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2 Comments »

  1. i read an interesting article about the zune a while ago. a buddy of mine who used to work for microsoft said he wouldn’t be surprised if that was their strategy…basically, a foot-in-door kind of thing)

    Comment by Mark Saleski — November 27, 2006 @ 5:29 pm | Reply

  2. woa…i just finished the sun-times article. pretty damning. i saw this described somewhere as “more embarrassing than microsoft bob”. ouch.

    Comment by Mark Saleski — November 27, 2006 @ 5:40 pm | Reply


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