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My first impressions of the Zune September 18, 2006

Posted by sk in Computers & Internet, Miscellaneous, Music, Technology and Software.

<More pics here

So, the Zune was finally (officially) launched last week. Newspapers and blog sites (the ones I read) have been abuzz with articles about it. So, why not add one more to the list? Here’s my take on the features, the UI, and the looks in general of Zune. I’ll list things I like and dislike about it and features that I’d like to see when it’s released. All this is based on what I’ve seen and read on the Internet and I’m liable to change my opinion in future. Let me start with the things I hate about it.

  1. Firstly, it’s not as attractive as the iPod. It looks cool and everything, but I don’t like the middle wheel – it seems to be made of some cheap plastic [UPDATE: It actually looks better in some other pics].
  2. Also, there are no markings on the wheel, which is pretty weird (maybe because this is just a trial version?).
  3. Is that an Ipod? Frankly, though, I’d rather that they copied the iPod than anything else. Also, MS holds the patent on iPod’s click wheel (although Zune doesn’t have one).
  4. Too little, too late: Microsoft is joining the party five years too late so you’d expect the device to offer something new or revolutionary, right? WiFi can hardly be considered that.

There are obviously things that I like about it (nothing revolutionary, as I mentioned earlier, but I like them nevertheless)

  1. Brown color: I love the brown Zune. I’m probably the only one in this country who does. Who cares. I like it nevertheless. It seems like a throwback to the 70s culture that Gap, American Eagle, Express, etc. are trying to bring back. Nice! The other colors are decent too – black and white.
  2. WiFi: While WiFi will initially be limited to allowing people to share music, the possibilities, as MS has pointed out are endless. I see a scenario where one can wirelessly transfer songs from the computer to the music player one day.
  3. Video quality/ Screen size/ UI: They rock. Not only does the device have a big screen, the video and image quality are also great (see the pic).
  4. FM radio: This seems to have been done well. You can see the name of the song that’s playing, which is pretty neat.

Things that I’d like to see in the Zune:

  1. Developer support: I’d like to see people being able to develop applications and games for the Zune. I’m sure this is in the pipeline, since it’s already been done with the XBox.
  2. Games: Good ones, not the crappy $5 iPod ones. Free games created by Microsoft and third party developers (see point (1)).
  3. Ability to stream videos from YouTube directly. I don’t even know if this is possible. If it is, I’d love to see it.

I’m really looking forward to developer support and in my opinion, that’s what will set the Zune apart from the countless other mp3 players. How cool will it be to download free games/ apps for the Zune?

Overall, I think it’s a pretty decent offering from Microsoft, considering that this is their first time. And although journalists and pseudo-journalists have tried to label it as an “iPod killer”, Microsoft is definitely aware of the fact that it’s practically impossible to dethrone iPod with just a single product. This product is more of getting a foot in the door for Microsoft. I like their marketing approach too. Instead of trying to get big names like Bono to tout the product, Microsoft has instead chosen to go with smaller bands and viral videos. It’s a good approach and only time will tell if it’ll succeed. They’ve also come up with a couple of viral videos at comingzune.com. For more information and pics, go to zunethoughts.com or zuneluv.com or better yet, go to the source – Ceser Menendez runs a blog site, zuneinsider.com, where you can get the inside scoop on the product. It also features a list of sites related to Zune. So, check it out when you have the time.

iPod and iTunes 

The integration of iPod with iTunes and the songs on the iTunes music store may be of interest to techies and journalists, but frankly, do high schoolers and college going kids really care about all that? Do they really buy an iPod because of iTunes (it actually works the other way around)? Most people buy iPods because of peer pressure. They don’t compare iPods’ features to those of other mp3 players. They just don’t care. They buy an iPod to fit in and for that reason, the initial release of Zune needn’t have any killer features. They just need to market it well so that these people will want it. And of course, they need all the luck they can get. It’s not easy. In fact, if you ask me now if this product stands a chance, my answer will be an unequivocal “no!” Like all other iPod wannabes, this product will probably soon be forgotten. Of course, there’s one thing that sets this product apart from the rest – it’s been made by the world’s largest software company and for that reason alone it’s been generating a lot of buzz. It remains to be seen if this initial buzz will translate into sales, but based on the initial feature-set, I wouldn’t bet on that. 


1. planetsk - September 18, 2006

Hmmmm….ipod killer?? May be/may not..however, it has got the Wi-Fi advantage..

Check this:

MS will have to face a huge competition..

-to be contd.

2. tismarkhan - September 18, 2006

I feel zune is going to fail..with real and sandisk products
zune might have added some extra features..but that cannot be used to showcase their creativity..the idea is not theirs and people are not going to like it..

Thus cometh the prophecy…To be continued..!

3. Phoenix - September 18, 2006

Copycats.. they could have tried something new at least with the design if not with the idea..!! 😐

4. sk - September 19, 2006

“I feel zune is going to fail”

And so are all the analysts and journalists. 🙂

“Copycats.. they could have tried something new at least with the design if not with the idea..!!”
I agree. I wish they’d done something different.

5. ramare - September 19, 2006


I did not expect honest evaluation from you when it comes to MS products!!

go SHRAV!!! my MVP!!

6. tismarkhan - September 19, 2006

“…my MVP!! ..”

our MVP

7. shravan - September 19, 2006

“go SHRAV!!! my MVP!!”

lol Just because I did an honest evaluation??

“our MVP”

I thought we had arrived at a consensus that planetshra… er.. planetsk was our MVP?

8. ruhi - September 19, 2006

Do you really think Zune will do well??! I dont think so..for one, Zune is too big..for people like me who use iPod nano because of the size issue..we wont even be looking at Zune..its big and awkward looking compared to iPod. Also, like you said, Microsoft has released Zune a bit tooooooo late in the market…it will be very difficult for them to succeed here, if not impossible. iPod has become synonymous with the word “MP 3 player”!! 😛

9. Phoenix - September 20, 2006

When I first heard the name Zune I thought it was one more of those web 2.0 sites.. hehehe!!

Zune is ugly! ipod is cute.. especially the ones other people have coz I dont have one anyways.. 😉

Microsoft should keep to their business and remove the bugs in Windows, in the first place. :p

Despite all their OS monopoly, Microsoft is feeling quite left out in all this web 2.0 hungama!

What do you think?

10. Phoenix - September 20, 2006

Guys, as an aside, we need an “About” page in this blog saying who are the great minds behind this blog, what they do etc. What say?

11. Phoenix - September 20, 2006

I especially want to know who Mr. Orange glasses, is. He has a striking resemblance to a telugu movie hero!! Jus kiddin’! :p

12. shravan - September 20, 2006

“Do you really think Zune will do well??!”

I never said that. It’s going to be extremely tough. In fact, I’m sure that it won’t dent iPod’s sales – at least, not now. That said, I like Microsoft’s marketing style. Also, the first gen Zune is competing with iPod video and not with the nano. Both iPod video and Zune are comparable in size (Zune has a bigger screen, though). FWIW, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, Creative, Sony, etc. have all tried and failed against the iPod.

13. tismarkhan - September 20, 2006

Phoneix, you are right. we do need an about page. I was working on that and I blatantly publicized it on this blog as ‘upcoming post’..
then microsoft vista happened to it…(it got delayed!)

14. shravan - September 20, 2006

“Despite all their OS monopoly, Microsoft is feeling quite left out in all this web 2.0 hungama!

What do you think?”

I know. I don’t think Microsoft should have even tried. By the way, they’re planning to release an online version of Office to compete with Google Spreadsheets and Google Writely. I kinda like the looks, but that could also be because I am a MS kool-aid drinker. 🙂

Mr.tismarkhan (who doesn’t want me to reveal his real name) is working on an about page. By the way, the guy in orange glasses is indeed a telugu actor. Come on, don’t you recognize Bramhanandam? 

15. shravan - September 20, 2006

“Microsoft should keep to their business and remove the bugs in Windows, in the first place. :p”

See, that’s the problem. They know they’re not going to be in the same position of strength, say five years from now. They’re investing in alternate technologies so that when revenues from Office and Windows diminish, they’ll still have something to fall back upon. So far, nothing seems to have paid off, but they’re diversifying so much that ultimately something will. Of course, the problem with that is that they may lose focus and that does seem to have happened to some extent.

16. shravan - September 20, 2006

So, I have a cheap flash mp3 player already and want to buy a new video player. Why do you guys think I should go in for an iPod? Assume that I don’t feel the need to appear cool!

17. Phoenix - September 20, 2006

Shravan I did not know you were so attracted to my way commenting with two or three afterthoughts.. hehehe!

As for me, I am going to bring my great great grandfather’s gramaphone home. It will be the coolest. Vintage, antique and heirloom! 😉

18. shravan - September 20, 2006

“As for me, I am going to bring my great great grandfather’s gramaphone home. It will be the coolest. Vintage, antique and heirloom!”

Seriously, I wish I had one. My grandfather had one but I think someone in my house got their hands on it before I could.

19. planetsk - September 20, 2006

“Do you really think Zune will do well??!”

“I feel zune is going to fail..with real and sandisk products”

“Zune is ugly! ipod is cute.. ”

-Hmm…Apple has sold 15M++ ipods (correct me if im wrong)..MS got to attract customers with a device something cooler and cuter than ipod..which isn’t the case..except a couple of features..it’s the same thing..old wine in new bottle..will ipod owners replace ipods with Zunes??..i don’t think so..and apple will have something to answer Zune..ipod-phone?? Only plus I see for Zune is..it’s going to be out during Christmas (hopefully)..so it can have an initial high sales..but it’s a tough road ahead for MS to reach break-even..will see..and it’s after 5 years of ipod’s intro.MS wanted to enter the game…5 yrs is li’l too late.. Zune will have its customer base..may not topple Apple’s ipod..ipod is here to stay

“As for me, I am going to bring my great great grandfather’s gramaphone home. It will be the coolest. Vintage, antique and heirloom!”

– Yeah, that shud be cool..My mom has some old records but sadly, there is no gramaphone.

20. shravan - September 20, 2006

A few things:

1. iPod rules the digital media market, yes. But Zune is not yet competing against the iPod (not yet). There are millions of people out there who don’t own mp3 players. There are also several (25% of the market) who own competing products. That is their target market. People are not going to dump their iPods in favor of the Zune and it would be naive on the part of MS to assume so. The real war will begin with the second generation Zunes.
2. The X(Box)factor: Close to 10 million XBox 360s will have been sold by the end of the year – a significant number. Although it’s not unreasonable to assume that many of these people already own iPods, Zune integrates nicely with XBox and this may help MS.
3. Cute vs. Ugly: These are all relative terms. People like iPod’s looks and so anything that’s different is ugly. Also, the action of moving the finger over the click wheel to change volume, etc. is, IMO, highly overrated. Why is it easier to rotate your thumb than to simply press a button? Someone please tell me.
4. Media Center Pc: Again – default OS on many of the new machines and Zune integrates well with it.
5. Reasons not to buy a Zune: No one has given me a reason not to buy a Zune yet. The only argument I’ve heard is that Zune has more features but iPod is iPod. That again reinforces my belief about peer pressure when it comes to iPods (read the article). Everyone in your group owns an iPod. Not to be left out, you buy one too. For someone like me who’s not worried about the social aspects, what are the advantages of getting an iPod over a Zune? No one has given me any reasons so far, other than, “iPod is iPod.” Okay, so? Let me give you a couple: Zune is new and untested (unlike an iPod) – and Indians are not among the early adopters for any product, right? Right??? Also, there’s a [reasonably] high probability that Zune will fail as a result of which, the company may stop making them.

21. planetsk - September 20, 2006

“The real war will begin with the second generation Zunes”

-Yes, I agree. Price will be a major driving factor between iPod and Zune..I heard the 30GB Zune may be around $280(??)

“Cute vs. Ugly: These are all relative terms. ”
-iPod became cute b’coz it was fresh and rigorous marketing and promotions (which Creative cudnt do)..I guess if MS had released its Zune before iPod..it wud have been cuter..Cute shudn’t be a major criterion (IMO) for buying an electronic device.

“Reasons not to buy a Zune”
-None. Buy it..it’s going to be a good one but don’t compare it with iPod. Look at it as just a Hi-Tech Music Player with additional features to make ur job easier.

I have seen people appreciating Creative more than iPod. So, perception comes into play in Christmas holidays when Zune is out.

22. shravan - September 20, 2006

I’m not in the market for an media player, though. I was just trying to make a point. I’m getting neither a Zune nor an iPod in the near future. Maybe I’ll buy an SD card and play music/videos on my Smartphone.

By the way: first Zune promotion here.

23. Jeremy - November 15, 2006

Ipod is so yesterday

24. Microsoft sings new Zunes « Sparks Team Blog - October 3, 2007

[…] knew I was going to post about this, especially after writing an extensive article about the first Zune. Microsoft released details about the v2 Zunes yesterday. They’re not revolutionary, but […]

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