My first impressions of the Zune September 18, 2006Posted 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.
- 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].
- Also, there are no markings on the wheel, which is pretty weird (maybe because this is just a trial version?).
- 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).
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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:
- 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.
- Games: Good ones, not the crappy $5 iPod ones. Free games created by Microsoft and third party developers (see point (1)).
- 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.