(image courtesy of SciFi Blogs!)
For all the hype and the commercials surrounding the Zune, and Microsoft’s attempt to make the Zune a full on iPod killer, there does seem to be something left to be desired in Microsoft’s new mp3 player offering. A few people have heaped praise on the Zune, mostly because it’s been the only real competition to the iPod as of yet and not so much by virtue of its features.
David Pogue, writing for the New York Times, had the opportunity to try out Microsoft’s Zune, and while it seems to be a solid portable music player with lots of features, it’s still no match for Apple’s iPod. While it has great customization features, and a large and crisp screen, the Zune is lacking significant features. (And no, an FM tuner is not a significant feature. If FM tuners were all it took to drive people away from the iPod, Apple would have added one a long time ago-I’m tired of people claiming that an FM tuner makes a better mp3 player-I, for one, listen to my mp3 player so I don’t have to listen to the radio!)
No macintosh functionality, of course-Microsoft isn’t likely to return the cross-platform favor that Apple extended. Add to this ad-hoc wifi that only works between Zunes; which is great and all for those people who find social networking a critical feature in their portable devices, but I can’t really see it taking off in any major way. First of all, you and all of your friends have to own Zunes for the music “sharing” functions to work; and even then, the Zune wraps up your music in intrusive DRM that we’ve discussed before (even if it violates the copyright of the song to do so) before sending it to a friend, making sure it can only be played and accessed for three days before it’s inaccessible anymore and “tagged for purchase” from Microsoft’s Urge music store-that is, if it’s even available among Urge’s offerings. And given that Microsoft has abandoned MSN Music entirely for Urge and subsequently left its old customers (with their old DRM) out in the cold, I wonder how many offerings that’ll be until the next best thing comes along for Microsoft.
Add to this the somewhat cheap-feeling plastic case and the inability to use the heavily touted wifi to sync with your computer or even download music from Urge, and the inability to download video for the Zune, and you have not just a pretty impressive lack of features, but even a lack of features that the iPod has-Microsoft just isn’t measuring up, or even trying to-they’re putting their bets on the social networking features of the Zune, and only time will tell if it pays off for them. Personally, I don’t think it will, and I’m not interested in a Zune at all, especially not as a purchasable option, but I will enjoy seeing Apple’s response-perhaps it, unlike Microsoft’s player, will be a true innovation.