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Zune — The future of digitally restricted content?

Andy Ihnatko has a scathing review in the Chicago Sun-Times of Microsoft’s music player, the Zune. His thesis: Zune sucks because it was designed to meet the music industry’s needs, not the users’.

We can only hope that this isn’t a harbinger of Vista’s loyalties. [Tags: ]

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15 Responses to “Zune — The future of digitally restricted content?”

  1. Aside from the sad marketing idea to have people “squirt” music from a Brown Zune to their friends the hardware is not half bad. Although the faux-cool “Welcome to the social” is about as belivable as the “I’m Gellin” ads by Dr Scholls.

    The thing that should frighten people is the fact they pay Universal Music for every Zune sold. This sets a horrid precident. This will put pressure on other hardware venders to do the same or risk losing the ability to sell music on-line.

    The sets MS + RIAA against the world. Buying a Zune actually funds the people who will sue us later. Microsoft has CLEARLY indicated whose side they are on in this battle.

    Then there is the anti-consumer aspects of the music pricing. Buyers must pay for “points” in $5 increments, but music is priced in such a way that dozens of points must be left behind each time. Left over points make MS money but mock the consumer.

    A few people think they are beyond cool because “it has wifi and it’s not an iPod!”. Anti-cool is interesting, except they’re DIRECTLY funding the RIAA a group these same people seem to have issues with.

    The only person who deserves a “Brown Zune” this Christmas is Bill Gates.

  2. These guys got it right. The Zune is a shitbrick.

    http://www.microsoftshitbrick.com

  3. While I don’t doubt that Andy had a problem setting up the zune or that he may not have enjoyed using it.

    But I did a quick search on Google for him where i found his blog, Powered by GLORIOUS Apple script. Pushing Macintosh books.

    He made little attempt to veil his love for all things apple. With his comments on the iPod. I don’t mind a negative review of any product in fact I welcome them. However I have had a 3rd generation Ipod since they launched and Now also have a Zune. I think both have merits and flaws, and found Andy’s article to be ignore that fact.

    As for the comments above about directly funding the RIAA, you are doing the same if you purchase songs on the iTunes music store or by buying many CDs.

    As one final note I have been repeatedly boned over by iTunes music store and their consitant changing of their music terms upon a new release of iTunes. So Apple isn’t home free there either.

  4. While I don’t doubt that Andy had a problem setting up the zune or that he may not have enjoyed using it.

    But I did a quick search on Google for him where i found his blog, Powered by GLORIOUS Apple script. Pushing Macintosh books.

    He made little attempt to veil his love for all things apple. With his comments on the iPod. I don’t mind a negative review of any product in fact I welcome them. However I have had a 3rd generation Ipod since they launched and Now also have a Zune. I think both have merits and flaws, and found Andy’s article to be ignore that fact.

    As for the comments above about directly funding the RIAA, you are doing the same if you purchase songs on the iTunes music store or by buying many CDs.

    As one final note I have been repeatedly boned over by iTunes music store and their consitant changing of their music terms upon a new release of iTunes. So Apple isn’t home free there either.

  5. The difference between the Zune and all of the other players is that simply owning the hardware sends money to the RIAA. Even if you NEVER buy a track on-line, MS has decided for you that you are a thief and the RIAA needs their due.

    That is a terrible trend in the hardware business and it clearly shows whose side Microsoft is on. They do this so all of the other venders are at an instant disadvantage in negotiations to legally sell music. Watch out or soon all your MP3 players will be Microsoft…

    I had no idea the original article writer promoted Macs. Are there specific statements of his you dispute, or are they fair but should not come from him? Is this a message or messanger issue?

  6. Andy:

    Mostly it is a case of the general tone of his article. It read like an argument between Sony and Microsoft console users.

    The Zune app doesn’t even have as many features as WMP. And why (for the love of God) doesn’t it support podcasts? That’s pure insanity.

    Here I don’t disagree that it would be nice to have some of the features of WMP but thus far I have not encountered and issue in my usage of the Zune that would require it. He failed to highlight a few of the positives that I have found so far, within the Zune software.

    Things I found it did well:
    1) Album art. I found that the album art that the zune software pulls is of higher quality and Easier to find using the zune software than it ever was on iTunes.
    2) Speed. Being in house microsoft development it seems to have hooks to the OS better. Much like iTunes performs much faster on my iMac g5. Zune software was much quicker to load my libary and didn’t seem to lag my system as much.
    3) Tagging of files when ripping a CD. Zune software provided more info in the tags of the MP3 than iTunes did when importing.
    4) Photos. there is a tab for looking at my photos in the software. I find this to be a great feature especially since I do have some photos stored on the Zune. I can sync these as well as my songs and videos.
    5) FM radio. On the road when I want to catch up quickly on the news or listen to a sporting event, I would have loved my iPod to do this.

    Things i would change:
    1) Support for more video codecs. I will never dispute that H.264 is a superior codec to WMV. I would also like to see a divx codec available to help control file total size.
    2) Podcasts. Native podcast support from within the program would be fantastic. This is something I will continue to use my iPod for.
    3) Indexing. Every time you add a new folder to the watch list the index starts for all folders even if they were recently indexed.

    The setup process stands among the very worst experiences I’ve ever had with digital music players. The installer app failed, and an hour into the ordeal, I found myself asking my office goldfish, “Has it really come to this? Am I really about to manually create and install a .dll file?”

    My installation went off without a hitch so this may be true but I have found no where that mentions manual .dll creation in the help areas after a brief search.

    Aside from this it really was merely a tone issue with me. I agree with some of what he says. My view differs on others. I personally don’t care what Microsoft is charging for their individual downloads as they also offer an option of monthly subscription allowing access to all the songs on their system (much like the current napster model).

    Already today some clever people have discovered an ugly but functional work around to the DRM issues. http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/portable-media/how-to-bypass-the-zunes-wifi-sharing-drm-217042.php
    I can only see in time more creative ways to get around the heavier handed policies on the device.

    Also the firmware is easily updated on the device and with its slew of features I am excited to see what they push forward to further take advantage of the Zunes capabilities.

    Overall I think he just missed the opportunity to criticize the device by getting overly dramatic in the way he went about it. His article may have brought discussion about the device but it was in no way due to his ability to write an engaging article.

  7. check this link out

    it says that zune desinged by a carpenter
    http://www.irintech.com/x1/blogarchive.php?id=552

  8. The fact you have to use an ugly hack for interesting stuff with the sharing is not an accident and that hack will not last through the first firmware update.

    By sending money to Universal Music for every piece of hardware sold Microsoft has CLEARLY stated whose side of the DRM wars they are on. It’s not ours.

    The hardware really does seem pretty cool, and it will be neat to see what can be done with it.

    I just can’t bring myself to allow Microsoft to pay the people who may well want to sue me and my friends later. Even if I never buy music they get paid!

    The only one who deserves a Brown Zune this Christmas is Bill Gates.

  9. Let’s googlebomb Universal’s Doug Morris as THE “big clueless idiot”

  10. Personally, I think that the Zune is part of a secret strategy on the part of Microsoft to demonstrate the market futility of attempts by the content industry to control the user experience. Either that, or Ballmer belongs in the same category as Universal’s Morris.

  11. Nice post, Mark.

    If there’s widespread disgust with the Zune, maybe Microsoft will learn that it’ll do better to side with its customers…

  12. Too much to say here. but…

    When is a major manufacturer going to turn it’s back on all this DRM nonsense and produce the music player we actually want to buy? In fact when is any manufacturer going to do this?
    – Easily replaceable and upgradeable hard disk and batteries
    – Plain old USB Mass storage
    – Decent firmware and/or RockBox
    – Support for the major non-DRM file formats including OGG.
    – At a price that gives them a reasonable profit after manufacturing and shipping rather than a premium because it’s shiny white or brown.

    The answer may be the Chinese. Who don’t care what the RIAA tell them and just want to make money shipping boxes. And just possibly the companies like Creative and Toshiba who’ve been burnt by PFS.

  13. I saw this a bit late, but it got me thinking about how music-players and magazine-platforms are going to have to interact when they are properly web-enabled. Its not going to help if there are some weird DRM funnies in the way…I want my digital magazine to link to my music player when I am reading a music magazine (maybe even vice versa). Same general requirement for every type of ‘old media’

    http://exacteditions.blogspot.com/2006/11/usability-and-user.html

  14. Yup, years old speculation already conjectures that liberated MP3/OGG players will automatically do background catalogue synchronisation prioritised according to the listener’s self-evident tastes (a la Pandora/LastFM).

    Like a tune being played in the car next to you? Press a button and all current tunes in the vicinity are uploaded (probably already), and the candidates are played in order of likelihood until you press the ‘Yup, that one’ button.

    Want to hear what the guy in the seat in front of you is listening to on his headphones? Same thing.

    The ideas are old, it’s the cartel that’s holding the realisation of this innovation back.

  15. I met Andy Ihnatko at Macworld in January of 2001. Neat guy. He loves him some Macs, that’s for sure. But I don’t think he was unfair in his review. You may argue with his “tone,” but substantively I think he was quite far. And, more to the point, his assessment that Microsoft is making this product for their music industry partners and not consumers is spot-freaking-on.


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