Monday, December 25, 2006

To Zune or not to Zune, what is the question ... exactly?

Zune under your tree?

I got an MS Zune for Xmas, debating if I should return it for an iPod. I opened the box anyway since I'd very little first hand knowledge of the product it would give me a chance to do some first hand research. I'd been putting off getting a Zune or iPod for a while. I play my music mp3 collection on my Rio, PocketPC phone, or iTunes/Windows media player/Mp3 cd player.

My music collection has no music purchased from an encrypted music retailer. I've converted it all directly to mp3 from my rather large CD collection with Audiograbber over several years. It turns out this is still the 'correct' thing to do. If I'd been buying any music online it would not play in the zune, likewise any music bought from the MS store would not play in an Pod. Life is much simpler if you just buy a CD, new or used, and convert it to mp3's yourself.

The Zune installs and works flawlessly and except for a hic-up when the zune PC software locked once while I was doing multiple things with it (probably a threading loop someplace). After killing and restaring it then had to rescan my entire library. The safe thing to do is to stop the zune PC software immediately after entering your initial information and after at least a partial scan of your library. This will save the config and your scan so if it does crash you won't have to start over.

The Zune sound is great, the video screen is large, the interface I like (with the background image zoom and the large letters that appear when scrolling through your music fast. It's got some tricky button combinations that are not listed in the manual that can power it off and erase all content if you want, I'd like a concise and complete list of all those sometime.

The Zune Web

The web property space has been saturated with 'ZUNE' sites, probably MS targeting that and trying to work up a buzz,,, are a few. I actually liked the hack your Zune hardware articles the best since it shows that you can change your own battery and hard drive if you want to.

Now lets focus on two things, broadcast file sharing and free news/video downloads, i.e. Podcasts.

Real World Network Test

I went to the Chargers vs. Seattle game yesterday, disappointing game result but that's another story. While I was there in Quest stadium, Microsoft central, even Paul Allen was there somewhere since it was the last regular season home game, I pulled out my Zune and had it search for another Zune. The results, in that crowd of thousands, was zilch, I was the only Zune there, not even a whisper of another zune anywhere. I imagine it will make contact with one eventually but I don't think they can find each other without some help from their owners.

Getting Podcasts on your Zune!

I don't have an iPod but have been using iTunes for a year or so to listen to free radio podcasts and video's. I like the news business stories you can't get anywhere else. Since 'free' content, or even videos, aren't available from the MS zune storefront. I can continue to use iTunes to subscribe to Podcasts and when these are downloaded they cross over into the Zune just fine without extra steps. The video isn't visible in the pc-zune program but the Zune will show the Video just fine(it converts during upload). If you want to view/pre-view the Podcasts on your computer you'll have to continue using Quicktime/iTunes for that.

Finally my Gripes in order:

  1. iPod/Zune market: Purchased music is locked to one player type and can't be used on another player, even though you paid money for the music you have fewer rights to it. Buying a CD and converting it to MP3 is the only thing that really works. iPod music does not play on a Zune and zune music will not play on an iPod. Free mp3's and mpeg videos work on both so why can't the music you pay money for?
  2. Zune: The file sharing network 'social' feature doesn't work, for several reasons; limited range, few other Zunes, slow xfer, limited retention, no RELAY, i.e. can't give to someone else what someone gave to you.
  3. Zune: Free content, i.e. Podcasts, can not be shared freely or for indefinite periods suposedly the content you received allways evaporates after you look and it three times or in three days, even when the content is not copyrighted.
  4. Zune: Files can not be copied back off of the Zune when you put them up there.
  5. Zune market: Podcasts are not available, or any free video content.
  6. Zune Market: It makes you log on every time you use it. iTunes doesn't make you log in and I never have. (Nevermind, this is incorrect, the market does NOT require you to log in to view the contents.)
  7. Zune-computer: Doesn't have a clear 'jukebox' feature.

1 comment:

Jason said...

"Zune: Files can not be copied back off of the Zune when you put them up there."

Just an FYI - you can, in fact, move files off the Zune and onto your PC, it's just not all that obvious. When you have the Zune selected, look in the right-hand column and you'll see a sync list for Zune to PC...put the files there, click sync, voila!

Jason Dunn