[This blog post was originally published here]
OK, I admit it, I succumbed. I have bought myself a Zune. I’d been thinking about getting one since long before it was released on the 14th November and I have now taken the plunge and splashed out for it.
I was speaking to iPod-fanatic Andy Britcliffe (he has 3 of them) last night as we ate thanksgiving dinner and he questioned why I would choose a Zune over the iPod. I started to bang on about not wanting to have the same player as every man and his dog before my fiancee flashed me one of her well-known "no geek-talk at the dinner table" glares and that soon shut me up. Well, I need to answer Andy’s question more fully. There are a few, more tangible, reasons. Firstly I am unashamed Microsoftophile – that won’t come as a surprise to anyone that knows me or anyone that reads this blog. Secondly, I happen to think that the Zune offering is far more compelling than any other mp3 player out there and that’s not because of the built-in wifi or FM receiver gubbins. Its simply because Microsoft have their fingers in so many pies.
Let me explain. As a gadget-freak I like stuff that does alot for me. I don’t want my mp3 player to just play music – I want it to be a whole lot more than that. Microsoft’s breadth makes that alot more possible.
- Everything needs to be driven from a single sign-on – Microsoft already have that in Windows Live ID.
- I want it to be able to connect to my XBox and stream music to it (this is something they managed to achieve from day one).
- I want it to sync pictures with my Live Spaces blog so that the pictures I have in my pocket are the same as are on the web (if they give me this it might actually drive me away from using the quite superb Flickr).
- I want the videos to be synced with those I have on Soapbox.
- I want to be able to publish playlists to my Spaces blog.
- I want it to be a mobile window onto all the other Live experiences such as Live Q&A, Live Maps, Live Alerts, (e.g. ‘Send to Zune’), Live Search, Live Messenger (e.g. "What am I listening to now?" like in the current Live Messenger) and the very hush-hush Live Drive.
- Stream my media to and from Windows Media Center.
- Record a podcast or write a blog and publish it direct to my Spaces blog. At the moment Zune is all about consuming media – will they enable us to create media with it as well?
The rather obvious point is that Microsoft already have the platform to push all of this stuff. Building platforms is what has made Microsoft the lumbering beast that it is today and if they are going to beat Google and Apple at their own game then they are going to have to build on that strength to build the Zune community that they so long for.
In case you’re wondering what I think of Zune now that I own one – well its not too bad. It hasn’t crashed yet anyway.
I found the Zune client (their version of iTunes) a little cumbersome to navigate at first but once I got used to it I kinda liked it. I didn’t find it quite as intuitive as I did first time I used iTunes though it has to be said – iTunes is a lot more list-driven than Zune. That’s good when you’re starting with it but once you get used to the Zune interface you’ll find it a lot slicker and a lot more akin to the tagging type of navigation that you now see on many websites (including this one).
I like the way that Zune will populate album and artist information in the background for you – in particular I like that it fetches the album artwork.
Installation and configuration of the Zune client took a lot longer than I had expected and they need to do something about that.
Its a Microsoft tool – why doesn’t CTRL-S save my playlist for me?
My biggest gripe about the Zune client is that it will not automatically arrange all your music for you in a single place (if it does then I haven’t found a way of doing it) – all you do is point it at various folders all over your system and let it store the locations. I like to have all my stuff in one place y’know.
I haven’t much to say about the device itself that has not been said already. Its bigger physically than some of its rivals with similar storage capacities. At 30GB its not cavernous enough for everything I want to put on it. The 3inch screen is very impressive, the interface is dead easy to navigate, and the sound quality is good. I haven’t been able to test out the community connectivity side of things because I don’t know anyone else that has got one. That could change though because the Radio Shack salesman where I got mine from said that their sales so far have massively surpassed their expectations. All in all I’m very pleased with my Zune so far – though I’ve only had it less than a day. And I even liked alot of the music that comes pre-loaded onto it.