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Critical Review of the Zune 616

ceallaigh writes "Andy Ihnatko of the Chicago Sun-Times has a critical review of the Zune. "Avoid," is my general message. The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity."
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Critical Review of the Zune

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:26PM (#16992176)
    "Wireless. More space than a nomad. Awesome."
    • by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @02:33PM (#16993230) Homepage
      I'm a bigtime Microsoft fan. Yes, there are some out there, and I am one of them. (Xbox, 2 Xbox 360's, 3 XP machines, mice, etc. etc. etc.)

      I *wanted* to buy a Zune, I really did. I wanted it to integrate in with everything else I own/run.

      I was hot to do it until I found out that it didn't integrate in with Windows Media Player....WTF? I have years of files integrated into that player. Microsoft has been pushing it forever, and I went with it. I do like WMP- I think it's a pretty nice piece of software. In fact the only reason I never bought an iPod is because it won't integrate with WMP.

      So when Microsoft came out with a player that didn't integrate with its core piece of media software, I thought that was a travesty. But, I was still willing to drink their Kool-Aid...until I found out they don't support Audible.com files.

      It's amazing that a DRM infested piece of equipment like this doesn't support DRM infested Audible.com files. It seems like a match made in heaven (for them...) but somehow this failed to happen.

      So, no Windows Media Player support...no Audible.com support. I just couldn't bring myself to buy one.

      So instead I bought a Creative Zen MicroPhoto. Which became a brick the instant I upgraded the firmware to support Audible.com. I returned that and bought an iRiver Clix.

      The Clix is nice- good interface, works well. The Audible.com upgrade didn't go too well (I had to use my wife's computer, because mine wouldn't recognize it) but I eventually got it. But instead of a 30+ Gig powerhouse with video, I ended up with a 2GB flash player. (Does video, but only 15fps)

      I would have bought a Toshiba Gigabeat, or one of the new Sansa players, but they don't support Audible.com, and I need that.

      Okay, last little bit of my rant here...I do NOT mind paying for content, doesn't bother me one bit. I would RATHER use Audible.com than BitTorrent because I think that artists and writers deserve to be paid for their work. But over the last year I have resorted to downloading at least a dozen books using BitTorrent because Audible.com sucks ass. Not only is the DRM a piece of crap, but the quality of the audio on their files blows.

      Should I have gone with the Gigabeat and just used BitTorrent (yay UTorrent!) to get my audiobooks? Possibly...because I don't think that Audible.com deserves any money because they suck. But overall I would rather be guilt-free. But the day that there is a reasonable alternative to the big players (Apple/Audible) I will jump on it immediately. Really, when will they realize that their DRM only frustrates legitimate customers, and those who want to steal are going to do it anyway?
      • by NiceGeek ( 126629 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @02:38PM (#16993294)
        Hate to say this, but why not an iPod? It supports Audible out of the box.
      • by Scarblac ( 122480 ) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:16PM (#16993660) Homepage
        As a bit of comfort, I'm the anti-you in technology preferences, and I have trouble finding a nice mp3 player that supports the Ogg files that make up almost my entire music collection...
      • by Bertie ( 87778 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @04:18PM (#16994158)
        Your first mistake was nailing your flag to the DRM flag at all. Now you've got a significant amount of music that you don't want to abandon, and it's like a millstone round your neck, dictating to you which machines you can consider buying. And that's after a fairly short space of time. Imagine if you'd spent ten years building your whole record collection out of this shite. You'd be baying for blood.

        I just don't get why people buy downloaded music at all, especially not DRM'd stuff. For a marginally higher cost, a CD gives you your music in an uncompressed format and leaves it up to you how you want to encode it. And it's got pretty packaging too. Until music downloads are losslessly encoded, DRM-free, and allow me to send for the cover art at no additional charge, I'm not buying.

        So that'd be "never", then.

        Fuck 'em. Don't give them your money. Keep buying CDs until they come back with the online music stores we want, rather than the ones they see fit to give us.
      • "I have years of files integrated into WMP"

        The WMA format was designed with one goal, to lock you into WMP.

        It was a very obvious trap but you fell for it.

        Don't expect any sympathy...

  • by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:26PM (#16992180) Homepage Journal
    Never mind that Andy is usually an advocate for Apple's products, however, as he is often, Andy is right on and I agree with his sentiments. In addition to his comments, I got to spend a little time with a Zune and initially liked the large screen until I actually turned the device on. I found it to be clunky, awkward, irritating, non-intuitive, completely incompatible with previous Microsoft music standards, and has none of the features that make the iPod so completely useful (ability to hold various media and data, even allowing you to boot from Firewire iPods). And forcing users to rely on the Zune application to move data onto or off the device is infuriating (kind of like the Creative devices. Is it possible to "open" a Creative media player and put data onto it without having to use the Creative application?).

    I simply cannot believe that Microsoft *ever* asked itself how users might interface with such a device and it's obsequious pandering to the music industry in an effort to out-compete Apple in this space rather than putting the effort into making a better product to the iPod quite simply offends. Hey Microsoft, how much did you spend coming up with this marketing, because I am simply stunned at how bad this is. If Microsoft *really* was interested in making a better product and not acting as a pimp for the record industry, they would also not have relied on "Zune Points" to purchase music. As anybody who has ever taken Marketing101 knows, you should always facilitate the process of getting people to spend money on your products and anything that steps in-between or slows this process down had better have a damn good reason for existing. Why do I have to buy "Zune Points" to then make music purchases? It's just stupid.

    Oh, and Microsoft..... Just a suggestion: Very few end users want their products to "squirt" anything at them. That is just bad marketing.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:49PM (#16992354)
      Yes, you can load music and video onto a Creative Zen Vision, Zen Vision M or Zen with Windows Media Player.

      Personally I find the one year old, Creative Zen Vision, a far better iPod alternative. It has a 640by480 res screen,
      30 GB HD, plays almost any video file downloadable (mpeg4, mpeg1, mpeg2, AVI, divx, xvid, mjpeg), allows you to read CF cards,
      plays the radio, plays MP3's, Audible files and WMA files, record sound via a built in mic, plays also through an small external speaker,
      allows you to view JPEGs and lets you output sound and video in full DVD quality to your TV and HT amp. It's a much better product, already out
      for a year now.
    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:25PM (#16992684) Journal
      I agree with you BWJones, that forcing users to use a particular bit of software with an mp3 player is the kiss of death. In fact, this type of limitation is a big black mark for any type of hardware as far as I'm concerned. Yesterday, I bought a SanDisk Cruzer 2gig flash drive. When I plugged it in, I found that it had some dopey software that ran upon insertion and a whole bunch of nonsense that curiously resembled spyware. And no simple way to just format the whole thing and use it as I wish. (I was able to figure it out, but I had to waste almost as much time as it took me to open the horrific plastic display shield the product came in. (This is a completely different issue, but the Cruzer had about the worst packaging I've ever had to deal with. I finally had to use a pair of poultry shears and an exacto-knife to open the package).

      The one "feature" of the Zune that a lot of the reviewers don't seem to mention is the way it integrates DRM in the most limiting way. Here's a news flash to mp3 player manufacturers: Let me use the thing as mass storage and don't try to play rights-police with me. Leave that problem to the entertainment business and just sell me hardware that works. I want to be able to drag files on and off my player the same way I do with a hard drive.

      That's some free advice, by the way, and everyone I know who uses a portable media player feels the same way. Ignore it at your own risk.
      • i really think that Microsoft, Apple, Creative, etc etc etc would prefer not to have any DRM on their devices. Apple didn't have much of anything until they started negotiations for the iTMS. iirc the only thing the iPod did was make the /music directory invisible, and there was a VERY simple fix for that. i don't know if that still holds true or not though.
        i don't 100% understand the Zune DRM (i just don't care enough to research it), but Apple's is really only on the files you buy from iTMS. on the iPod,
    • That's not just bad marketing, it's a marketing showstopper. Remember Ball-buster-man's comment "You might want to squirt me pictures of your kids"? Sorry, anyone who puts squirt and kids in the same sentence should be locked up, IMHO.

      Seriously, it sounds like Ball-head-man was desperately trying to come up with a catchy name for that wifi thing the device does so badly. He's the most executron-looking dweeb I've ever seen; he typifies the image of the whole company to the yoot who buy such gadgets.

      So pl
    • by Buzz_Litebeer ( 539463 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @02:22PM (#16993148) Journal
      Here is a good one, this is a CNN review of the Zune

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buKaqRG2SFA&mode=re lated&search= [youtube.com]

      It turns into an ad for the new ipod shuffle. It is hilarity.

  • Subjective Review (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:27PM (#16992182) Journal
    I'm not saying that the Zune is good by any means nor have I had a chance to play around with one. Which is why I read this review--I was hoping for a good review on this new MP3 player.

    But I found this to be a particularly bad review. Perhaps I don't read a lot of reviews but I prefer them to be thorough. One thing that stuck out about this review is that it didn't even have room for something nice to say about the Zune. Not one thing. I'm sure a high school student could write me a review with a PROS/CONS table that would be more informative than this. I find it very hard to believe that this reviewer managed to not find anything good about the Zune.

    Here's a simple question I didn't see answered anywhere, "Did it work?" If it did what was its sound quality like? Is it durable? How heavy/large is it? Every point of this article a mark against the Zune. I think that a 'review' entitles you to be subjective & look at it from all angles then weigh in at the end about whether or not you would recommend it. Instead this review starts off with the quote, "Yes, Microsoft's new Zune digital music player is just plain dreadful. I've spent a week setting this thing up and using it, and the overall experience is about as pleasant as having an airbag deploy in your face. 'Avoid,' is my general message. The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity." Why should I even finish reading your review if that's the first thing you say?

    And then Apple enters your review. I can understand a comparison to other competitive MP3 players but you just start using the brand name Apple. Why? Why not give me a rundown of this versus iRiver or Creative's MP3 players? So the Toshiba MP3 player is $40 cheaper, doesn't tell me much if it sucks even more. Are they also compatible with podcasts and WMA codecs?

    Reading this review causes me to question Andy Ihnatko's motive. Is he reviewing the Zune, grinding an ax or trying to get me to buy an iPod? I know the thing sucks but at least be fair if you're going to write a review for the masses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by squoozer ( 730327 )

      The problem is that the "good" things were probably things you just take for granted like play lists and good sound quality. I've had pieces of hardware that had so many bad points it was impossible even see adequate let alone good points. It's almost as if the bad points push the good points into the corner and start waving at you at that point even thinking about the device makes you froth at the mouth with anger.

    • by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nk@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:43PM (#16992298) Homepage
      The thing is that in the $200+ price range most MP3 players sound pretty good. They hold a decent amount of music. The question becomes what other features do they have and why should I buy one that isn't the ipod. For the thing to be successful it has to be easier to use. If the reviewer had to manualy rig up a dll, it isn't easy to use. Since it came from MS you would expect it to work seamlessly with windows and the media player that windows comes with, it doesn't. It has wifi it should be able to link up with other wifi devices and move data around, it doesn't. The music share feature is so limited as to be useless. The Zune would be disapointing if some third party built it, but coming from ms it is inexcusable.

      The reason why The ipod is used instead of the iRiver or the creative is that the gold iPod is the standard by which music players are judged. By now most people have experianced an iPod, but wouldn't know an iRiver if it bit them.

      Perhaps this is a
      • Re:Subjective Review (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nf1nk ( 443791 ) <nf1nk@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:13PM (#16992568) Homepage
        I hate replying to myself, but I got cut off midthought.

        My thought is that ms worked closly with the RIAA on this player, put decent amount of force behind it, looking to see it flop. Once it flops the next version they can tell the RIAA to kindly piss off because their ideas don't work. The next model might actauly be a good product (or the third release if they stay true to form.)

        • by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:19PM (#16992622) Homepage
          Once it flops the next version they can tell the RIAA to kindly piss off because their ideas don't work.

          Doubtful, if they're willing to pay the labels for each Zune sold. (Then again, that part is probably to force Apple to pay when their label contracts come up, which effectively INCREASES the leader's cost, when normally it drops.)
      • Re:Subjective Review (Score:5, Interesting)

        by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:15PM (#16992590)
        I don't agree that it is inexcusable. This is about normal for Microsoft and it is expected. Microsoft has a lot to loose on two edges of the sword.

        The first edge is about the loss to the music industry. If they can't satisfy the demands of those guys and if they violate the music industry directives (for a lack of better words) in any way they could suffer the long term. If they implement a feature that allows Zune users the ability to too freely break the rules then the end result would be lawsuits. So, Microsoft joined the ranks of the DRM nightmare inclined--and the Zune users are going to pay.

        On the second edge of the sword Microsoft has to take over the DRM industry or they will fail. Apple has that now. What I mean by the DRM industry is that they must take control of the technology that implements DRM in every household and every pocketbook. If they don't they loose to Apple and they will never gain their monopoly status in Content Rights Management (CRM).

        Bill Gates said that computers are no longer primarily used to create content, instead they are used to consume it. He knows this is the bandwagon to get up on and to ride it out. He wants total control of all content on computers and that means CRM (the software used to create it) (DRM, et al).

        DRM and CRM are the OS of protected data. Whomever controls that controls content and thus controls a lot of other markets. They can then begin to dictate things just as Apple was successfully able to dictate the price of music to the music industry. Steve Jobs was the greedy one in the pricing when that was being debated, IMHO. It is hard to see it until you recognize that he controls the DRM for 70% of the market.

        Bottom line, unless Microsoft succumbs to the music industry to start they can't get industry players on board. Unless they take over the DRM and CRM control they'll never get the music industry (or any other industry producing protected content) to come on board. Considering their blatant failure to maintain backwards compatibility one can only guess they have fallen on their own sword on this one.

        Hopefully, some realize that we can't let Microsoft get control of the DRM and become a monopoly in CRM like they did the OS. If they do then we'll have high and inflexible prices on our content as well.
      • Re:Subjective Review (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ElephanTS ( 624421 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:42PM (#16992814)
        About the sound quality -

        this is pretty much a non-issue nowadays. I'm a recording engineer with nearly 20 years of experience behind me and have lived and worked through the whole digital audio transition in tedious detail. At the end of the eighties most 16-bit DACs sounded like garbage - even on machines worth (at the time) several thousand dollars. Domestic CD player DACs were, to my ears, horrific at this time with a few exceptions but during the passing years things improved quite quickly. For instance, around 92-95, cheapish semi-pro devices started sounding pretty good (like portable DATs and stereo samplers) and quite quickly this became the case in domestic machines too. I became used to this fact (digital audio now sounds good!) so that when I bought a 3rd gen iPod about 3 years ago I didn't even bother check what the quality was like - I knew it was going to be good because of the general advance in chipsets available to the designers. The only thing I'd worry about is interference from electronics onto the analogue amps producing artefacts that are very quiet but annoying like hearing the HD controller work or things like that. One of the reasons I love the pod is that I've never heard that at all. So I think the review reflects this mindset - digital audio is basically good now with few exceptions.

        (Having said all this, my new Samsung phone with built-in MP3 player sounds like crap but this is I suspect because of custom chips being designed to fit a tiny form factor and too much emphasis on features rather than quality).
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by karnal ( 22275 )
          As a follow up to your sound quality note, I wanted to state that I have tried to use several differnt PDAs as my all-in-one device. It makes perfect sense: They're powerful enough to operate as my calendar, inbox and mp3 player at work. However, with consumer level headsets (32 ohms or less) the noise coming out of the DACs on the two devices I used are horrible. (Palm TX and a Dell Axim X50V)

          I would love to continue using one or the other; and I'm told I can "increase the resistance" by modifying a co
    • by Thumper_SVX ( 239525 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:51PM (#16992376) Homepage
      Actually, this review is in the Chicago Sun Times; it's targeted at the average Joe Blow consumer, not the technical people. As a result, the style makes a lot of sense. The style is conversational, to try to get people to read it. It's also short and not very in-depth. Yes, you're right it focuses on all the bad aspects of the player with no room for the good. Well, that's how people think and how people talk in social circumstances. More often than not, people WANT to hear about the bad from a new MP3 player rather than the good; it gives them a reasonable expectation of their own experiences with the device. I know that if I buy a consumer level device and have a bad experience with it, I want to tell my friends about the bad and the good takes a serious back seat to the bad experiences I had. That's so I can try to help my peers and friends avoid the same pain I went through.

      Honestly, if you can't even install the software without hitting support.microsoft.com then that's going to set a precedent among the average user. The sound quality and interface become secondary if you can't even get music onto the player without serious hassle. This reviewer just gave his opinion and his bad experiences with the software and hardware overshadowed everything else. In fact, it was some time before he could even get it to work! I agree with his point, on Christmas day the last thing I'd want to deal with is my 9 year old daughter bugging me constantly wondering why she can't use her new Zune. Of course, I don't think I'm going to spend that on her, but I see his point.

      And the comparison to Apple? Well, the average consumer knows Apple, knows iPods... and refers to every MP3 player as an iPod. I've seen them in Best Buy so the comparison is valid. Plus the comparison to the Toshiba? Well, I don't know if you've taken a close look, but the Zune *is* a Toshiba device. It's an evolutionary advance on a player that Toshiba already sells with a new button interface and wireless. So although it's a bit of a stretch, that's a valid comparison too.

      Yes, I've played with a Zune (though not the software I'll admit). I was underwhelmed. It seemed a little kludgy to me to get where I wanted in the interface (though I'll admit I am an iPod owner and therefore used to that interface), and the rubber coating reminded me of a rather disturbing green/brown sex toy. That's my personal opinion, and not to be taken as gospel, though!
    • by bgfay ( 5362 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:53PM (#16992382) Homepage
      I was about to write a positive comment about the review and found this as the first comment. I disagree with the premise that a review has to have a good point or two listed in it. I found that the review had me thinking about all sorts of things other than just the basics of the Zune. I've read those a hundred times already, starting long before the thing saw the light of day. This review was focused not on the Zune device but on the Zune environment and in that regard it got to all the points it needed to make.

      Do I think that the review was a shill for the iPod? No. Instead, the author promoted the way of thinking used by the iPod designers and the other successful makers of digital players. The point wasn't to tell you all about how to play songs on the Zune or any of that stuff, it was to say that the method of design, the planning of the product, and the theory behind all of this is deeply flawed.

      I see in my morning newspaper, sales for the Zune. I have yet to hear one of my friends thinking about buying one. It's not because they are all addicted to the iPod, several have other types of players. But not one of them is looking for a player that gives them less control over their music. Mostly we talk about how we wish that we could easily move music between players, use wireless devices, receive radio on the iPod without an add-on, and the like. In short, we talk about ways it could be better. It seems to me and to this reviewer that Microsoft worked diligently to find ways to make the player less convenient and more locked up.

      I'll say no thanks to that design model and thank you to the reviewer for succinctly getting at an idea that I had thought of but not been able to articulate.
    • And then Apple enters your review. I can understand a comparison to other competitive MP3 players but you just start using the brand name Apple. Why? Why not give me a rundown of this versus iRiver or Creative's MP3 players? So the Toshiba MP3 player is $40 cheaper, doesn't tell me much if it sucks even more. Are they also compatible with podcasts and WMA codecs?

      While I agree with most of your post, I think you're a bit off here. It's fairly standard (and sensible) practice to make a comparison to the indu

    • "Subjective review", eh? Reviews are always subjective. Sounds like you want benchmarking, or a table of specifications, not a review. You realize that your comment itself is subjective, and you are reviewing the review?

      >Why should I even finish reading your review if that's the first thing you say?

      You appear to be speaking directly to the author there, and I'm not the author of the review, but the answer is obvious: because it is valuable feedback on the product. Microsoft -- as a company mindset -
    • Re:Subjective Review (Score:5, Informative)

      by NonSequor ( 230139 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:06PM (#16992516) Journal
      He brought up some very serious criticisms that incline me to agree with his assessment of the device:

      • The installer failed and the tech support page directed him to install a DLL himself. An installer requiring this level of user intervention means that a significant number of Zune buyers will have severe difficulty getting the software installed.
      • The Zune does not synchronize with Windows Media Player or any other popular desktop media player. It only syncs with its own media player that has fewer features than Windows Media Player or any other popular media player.
      • The Zune uses a DRM scheme that is incompatible with Microsoft's previous DRM scheme meaning that you'll have to rebuild your music collection for the Zune.
      • The "squirting" feature is so restricted as to be essentially worthless.


      This doesn't sound like something I want.
    • by eltonito ( 910528 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:14PM (#16992582)

      On the other hand, I can't stand reviews that fall into a volley of pros and cons. It creates a text-based tennis match that makes me want to vomit after a few paragraphs of indecisive rambling.

      "Sure, the software took hours of troubleshooting to get working, but once it was running it loaded files without a problem!" or "It wouldn't play any files created in the advertised to work playsforsure format, but those formats that did work sounded great."

      So, no, he didn't go out of his way to say anything nice about the unit because he had nothing nice to say. The positive things I appended to his comments weren't worth saying because the unit should do these things anyway. One would expect the software to work as designed and formats to play as advertised, so why should he tout these abilities? He shouldn't make apologies for a bad user experience. What I wonder is - did he buy the unit himself or was he supplied the unit for a review? What about other reviewers who might be doing volley reviews of the Zune? If anything, freebie product creates a positive bias that simply can't be trusted to be accurate, lest you piss off your source of free crap.

      Jalopnik [jalopnik.com] did a great article about how car magazines won't slam a long term tester because of the benefits they receive by being given free cars to drive. Every "review" they publish balances each bad aspect with a good one. This is not "subjective", this is biased. A review shouldn't straddle the fence - it should go one way or the other.

    • Consider the Source (Score:5, Informative)

      by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:15PM (#16992594)
      This is not a review from PCWorld. It's a writer with the Chicago Sun-Times giving advice to parents for the holiday buying season.

      The purpose of the review is not to give geeks a rundown of every single feature and whether it performs as expected. The purpose is to inform the reader about whether this is even a worthwhile product, given all the hype that surrounds it.

      The reviewer did point out other options that don't suck as much as the Zune and are cheaper. So he's done his job in giving the average consumer an idea about whether this is a worthwhile product... just as a movie reviewer in the same paper would give you an idea about whether ANYONE should consider going to a particular movie. Most movies have some demographic that might enjoy watching it... but the same is not true for technology products, which may or may not even work as expected. There were at least two features the reviewer pointed out that do not work as expected, given the way they are portrayed on the box.

      So it looks like the Zune isn't even worth considering. I'm glad that reviewer was honest enough to say so.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by vought ( 160908 )
        The purpose of the review is not to give geeks a rundown of every single feature and whether it performs as expected. The purpose is to inform the reader about whether this is even a worthwhile product, given all the hype that surrounds it.

        Speaking of which, I'm still appalled at the number of "geeks" on Slashdot who:

        -Still think the iPod DRMs everything.
        -Conveniently forget about the fact that Microsoft has promised to DRM everything.
        -Have little, if no idea about the particular features of the most popula
    • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @02:24PM (#16993170) Homepage Journal


      The Zune is literally a marketing catastrophe. Andy I. is alerting his readers of the trainwreck it represents. He's identifying the showstoppers that make this a poor purchase. When we're talking about a $250 buy-in, it's important to warn consumers that the glitches are not minor. Even if MS got everything else right with this player, it would be something for parents to avoid purchasing if they're going to have to manually create and install .dll files on X-mas morning.

      There's no sense for Andy to discuss the finer details of weight, size, etc. The problems cancel out how superior the form factor might be over the iPod. It's like you're asking for a reporter to discuss the positive aspects of Osama Bin Laden-- "Well, he exhales carbon dioxide, which plants need for photosynthesis." Yes, I'm in agreement with Andy on this, the Zune is the Alqueda of mp3 players.

      Seth
  • they'll get it right on the third version...

    Seriously though, Microsoft will probably keep throwing money at it until they get it right. Personally I doubt I'll ever pick one up though, Rockbox will keep me happy until my iRiver dies and then I'll just pick up another player that is supported.
  • ...those are my thoughts upon finally encountering an iPod Nano up close and personal. Nice touch-sensitive clickwheel, but why Apple couldn't just make it work like a USB drive? The menu system would work well for folder-based playback. This reliance on iTunes (which is very invasive) ruins an otherwise excellent product.
    • Re:Funny... (Score:5, Informative)

      by damsa ( 840364 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:47PM (#16992332)
      At least with an Apple you can use it as a disk drive and use third party software to load it. People forget so fast that the first PC compatible iPods did not use iTunes but used Musicmatch. With the Zune you can't even mount it as a drive.
    • All iPods mount as external storage, are you complaining because a USB jack is not inbuilt?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by HairyCanary ( 688865 )
        He could be using a Mac. On my Windows laptop, my iPod Nano is visible as USB storage. On my Mac Mini, it is only accessible by using iTunes.
        • by mh101 ( 620659 )
          I don't have a Nano, but both my 3rd and 5th gen iPods are usable as external drives on my Mac. You just have to go to the iPod settings in iTunes and tell it to enable it as an external HD. It's likely just a case that Nanos on Windows have that option turned on by default, or it got enabled somehow.

    • by smilinggoat ( 443212 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @02:17PM (#16993130) Homepage Journal
      I disagree.

      I own both an iRiver iHP-120 and an Apple iPod.

      The iHP, I have to manage all my files manually. I drag over the folders into the directory I want and bingo, it's done. However, that takes time and effort. If I rip new music on to my computer, (which I do often, I'm a musician) I have to figure out what folders are already on there and which aren't. Plus because I'm on a mac, and OS X generates all sorts of hidden .files containing attributes, I have to go to the terminal and pull a find /Volumes/iRiver -name ".*" -print -delete just to remove ugly .files everywhere.

      With my iPod, all my new music I rip in iTunes is placed neatly in my music library that I don't have to look at. All I do is plug in my iPod to charge, and *poof* all my new music is updated onto the device! I don't have to take time to dick around with folders, figuring out which songs I've added since my last manual update. As a boost, all the artwork is on there too, and I'm a meticulous tagger, so everything has art.

      There are some nice benefits to the iRiver, of course, such as OGG support and a built in recorder, but over all, the iPod + iTunes experience has it beat, hands down.
  • The Zune can be an incredibly cool and useable device as soon as the hackers get into it and create a differen Firmware/OS for it like they did with the ipod,iriver,creative and other popular mp3 players.

    the Zune is a decent piece of hardware hobbled and destroyed by management idiocy. It's the perfect metaphore for what is wrong with corperate america.

    That said, I'll be snapping up a used one cheap the day the first OSS firmware becomes available for it.
    • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:43PM (#16992300) Homepage Journal

      The Zune can be an incredibly cool and useable device as soon as the hackers get into it and create a differen Firmware/OS for it like they did with the ipod,iriver,creative and other popular mp3 players.

      Sounds interesting, but it seems to me Andy's job is to review products as they are now, as shipped by the OEM. His reading audience isn't out to pimp their ride; they're out to get a device that does great stuff right out of the box.

      • His reading audience isn't out to pimp their ride

        Changing firmware isn't akin to pimping a ride. It's more like adding orthopaedic seats and replacing that camshaft that breaks every two weeks with a stronger non-factory part. Products that have mandatory DRM even for free tracks are inherently defective, plain and simple. Aftermarket firmware repairs that factory defect.

        -b.

  • What review? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by danwesnor ( 896499 )
    It's not so much a review as a rant. Hardly any info is given about how the thing works. The software didn't install? Big deal! When I updated the firmware on my brand-new iPod 3 years ago, it bricked it. Most of the other complaints also apply to the iPod - works only with supplied software (theoretically, both players have workarounds), not compatible with other on-line stores, DRM, yada yada yada. Since most people don't actually buy from the store and rip their own CD's, maybe he could have talked
    • Re:What review? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ElephanTS ( 624421 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:52PM (#16992378)
      The software didn't install? Big deal!

      Odds on you're a Windows user. Not flaming but that is a big deal to the average user.
    • If the Zune had a true workaround, you could use it with Linux - or even a Mac! That is a "workaround".

      A registrry hack that lets you drop your own files on the Zune that it is free to then ignore is NOT a "workaround".

      And only Microsoft already had an online store (several in fact) that they chose to make the new player not compatible with. So Microsoft definatley deserves more scorn on this score.

      And I guess he wasn't that negative after all, since he didn't even talk about the battery life...

      You're rig
    • Re:What review? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mabu ( 178417 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:20PM (#16992634)
      It's not so much a review as a rant. Hardly any info is given about how the thing works. The software didn't install? Big deal!

      On the planet where I come from, this would be a big deal.

      It's utterly amazing, amazing... how much Microsoft's shit has made people, often unknowingly, lower their standards.

      And MS fanbois in this thread think it's unfair to beat up on Microsoft. What a bunch of bullshit. If the damn product won't install on your own computer, when the same manufacturer makes the opearting system on both machines, that's beyond bad.

      It's a shame some of these youngsters weren't into computers back when they actually worked properly. When operating systems didn't need to be rebooted at random or every time you updated something, when products you bought actually lasted a little while or didn't cause you tremendous grief just to get them working. Thanks Microsoft!
    • Re:What review? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by idiot900 ( 166952 ) * on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:44PM (#16992830)
      Most of the other complaints also apply to the iPod - works only with supplied software (theoretically, both players have workarounds), not compatible with other on-line stores, DRM, yada yada yada.

      iTunes is actually good software. Apple's music store is well-implemented. DRM is evil, but Apple does a pretty good job hiding it from you. So most people don't need or want alternatives to the Apple stuff.

      In the reviewer's opinion, the MS software, music store, and DRM issues are so bad that the ability to use alternatives would be a real selling point. At the end of the day, why would anyone spend $300 on a Zune when they could spend the same $300 on a iPod and feel like they are getting a vastly superior experience on their Windows box?
  • Wireless DRM? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:44PM (#16992312)
    No, the Zune's sole wireless feature is "squirting" -- I know, I know, it's Microsoft's term, not mine -- music and pictures to any other Zune device within direct Wi-Fi range. Even if the track is inherently free (like a podcast) the Zune wraps it in a DRM scheme that causes the track to self-destruct after three days or three plays, whichever comes first.

    This is daft. Is the DRM imposed by the client or the server Zune? What if a band wants to promote their music by, for example, setting up free downloads of selected tracks after a concert? Why should everything go through the Zune store? Also, is there any way to get a server other than another Zune to interface with the thing wirelessly?

    I hope this product does become popular enough for many different hacked firmwares to be released. Seems like a decent hardware with shitty firmware, but that's correctable :) - that's what I call "product support"...

    -b.

  • by ctid ( 449118 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:47PM (#16992338) Homepage
    I was reading this review with a little smile on my face until I came to this part, which caused me to LOVFL:

    "These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," said Doug Morris, CEO of Universal Music Group. "So it's time to get paid for it."
    Well, Morris is just a big, clueless idiot, of course. Do you honestly want morons like him to have power over your music player?


    If that's not enough, the reviewer then weighs in with:

    Take the Zune's one unique and potentially ginchy feature: Wi-Fi. You see this printed on the box and you immediately think "Cool. So I can sync files from my desktop library without having to plug in a USB cable, right? Maybe even download new content directly to the device from the Internet?"

    Typical, selfish user: How does your convenience help make money for Universal? No wonder Doug despises you.


    This suggests that for your typical tech-journalist, the issue of the power of music companies and the damage it does to consumers' interests is perfectly clear. However, I don't know anything about the Chicago Sun Times - is it a big newspaper? Does this review suggest that the mainstream media in the US is ready to turn a critical eye on the music companies?

    • Re:Very funny review (Score:4, Informative)

      by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <DStaal@usa.net> on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:05PM (#16992496)
      The Chicago Sun Times is one of the biggest newspapers in the country. Possibly in the top three, definitely in the top ten. They are mainstream media.

      That said, Andy is a former MacWorld columnist, who often supports Apple. His viewpoint can probably be considered somewhat biased. (Not that I don't agree with him, but I am also somewhat biased.)
    • by RsG ( 809189 )

      Does this review suggest that the mainstream media in the US is ready to turn a critical eye on the music companies?

      I'm not sure somebody who does the technical column for a print newspaper is quite the same thing as "the mainstream media".

      As a gross generalization, people who write on technical subjects for a general audience are semi-technical geeks. They aren't in the really tech heavy category, like engineers or programmers, but they're still quite comfortable with gadgets. Think of the sorta guy who'

  • I wonder if..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Brad1138 ( 590148 )
    a positive review [gizmodo.com] for the Zune, could make it as a story on slashdot?
    • Are you kidding? That would require objectivity in regards to an Microsoft product. If an article doesn't at least slam MS in a back handed way it's not going to get on Slashdot because real "nerds" only like Linux and Nintendo and Apple.
  • Cringely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Petronius.Scribe ( 1020097 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:50PM (#16992362) Homepage
    Remember Robert X Cringely's dictum about Microsoft - the third product is always the real one. The first two are just to scope out the market.
  • by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @12:51PM (#16992372)
    In every single black friday ad I got in the mail and paper and went through, Best Buy, Circuit City, Walmart, etc, not one bothered to even mention the Zune for my local stores. Most of them had the iPod on page one or two or in the hot gifts section. Their displays are kind of sad little things next to the area full of iPod gear and accessories and of course the iPod itself. One of the stores had more space for Sandisk players than the Zune. It would seem even some retailers know this is probably just going to be an expensive side shelf paperweight.

    As for the iPod, the local grocery store now carries the iPod and accessories back in the TV and Game aisle and the corner gas station had shuffles for sale next to the compact flash cards, aimed at travelers and vacationers. You just don't get more pervasive than that. Until the Zune can even near this and can branch out into other small flash based devices as well, Microsoft just isn't going anywhere with it.
  • From TFA:

    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?"

    But there it was, right on the Zune's tech support page. Is this really what parents want to be doing at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning?

    To which the goldfish replied:

    No, dude, you've got to register one [microsoft.com]. Now stop talking to me.

    • No, dude, you've got to register one. Now stop talking to me.

      The average user will still think it's a non-intuitive install, regardless of whether you have to "register", "install", or "create" a .dll. This product should Just Work with all of MS's modern OSes (2000, XP, Vista).

      -b.

  • Result: The Zune will be dead and gone within six months. Good riddance.

    Very insightful article until this remark. Microsoft will sink their entire ship before they let the Zune fail. Its key to their drive into the living room. The Zune may not ever be a financial success, but it will be out there for some time to come.

    One thing I didn't realize that he pointed out was that Microsoft's model for payments, while completely asinine, gets rid of a per song credit card authorization fee. That's likely a significant cost in Apple's scheme.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Saige ( 53303 )
      You're right, the Zune won't be gone in 6 months, but for the completely wrong reasons.

      Zune isn't about a drive into the living room. Portable music players like the Zune aren't meant for the living room, and never have been.

      The reason it won't be gone in 6 months is that Microsoft doesn't come up with new things to get instant profit, and they don't make their choice whether or not to kill a product based on immediate consumer reaction. The company doesn't make decisions to only improve next quarter's pr
  • This apparently an actual Zune Ad. [youtube.com]

    What is going on here?

    Is the Zune supposed to be some sort weapon?

    (ps, I am old, do you kids "get it"?)

  • Can we please get a poll? I feel naked without a poll.

    I will continue to burn karma until a poll is posted!

    TLF
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @01:30PM (#16992724)
    If you change the following sentence from:

    The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity.

    to:

    Windows 3.x is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity.

    You'll realize that this is just a typical Microsoft "throw something out there" first effort. It was obviously never intended to be an iPod killer, or even to be successful at any particular level. However, you can bet your MP3 player (whatever it is) that there are a bunch of someones at Microsoft reading every public comment about the Zune that they can get their eyeballs on. It's just as important to know what customers think is stupid or otherwise dislike as it is to know what they do like (they need only look at the iPod for that information.) That's Marketing 101, and if nothing else Microsoft does know how to market.

    Windows 1.x, 2.x and 3.x truly sucked at pretty much every level but at least 3.1 made a lot of money. Windows 95, for all it's many flaws made even more money, and 98+ made even more money. Don't expect anything positive for the first few years after Microsoft enters a particular market. Historically, they usually fail economically (if not technologically) at anything but operating systems and office suites anyway, but given time they could do well in the portable media player market.

    Either way, Apple had best not rest on its laurels for too long. Microsoft isn't the only competitor out there that wants a piece of the iPod pie.
  • by arekusu ( 159916 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:28PM (#16993744) Homepage
    After playing with the unit for a few minutes and being disgusted with the UI, this is what I noticed leaving the store:

    The "zune" logo on the translucent marketing material, when viewed from the back, looks a lot like "anus".

    That about sums it up.
  • THE REAL PROBLEM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BWhaler ( 878615 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @03:37PM (#16993804)
    It amazes me that every review of the Zune has completely missed the point:

    In today's day and age, with always-on devices with mandatory updates, DRM, and proprietary file formats, who you buy from and trust with your memories, pictures of family and friends, music collections, videos, pictures, letters, etc., is a very, very important decision.

    Will you be able to look at the digital pictures of your child 30 years from now? Yes, we have entered that age.

    The fundamental problem with the Zune is Microsoft's lack of integrity. Not the Zune's design. Not the Zune's user interface, or anything else. The problem is the lack of character of the company behind the product.

    The Zune showed that Microsoft is more than willing to leave good, paying customers who bought 'Plays for Sure' music high-and-dry with a bleak future. And the killer is there is no practical reason for this other than to be sure they copy Apple identically and make people pay twice for the same music.

    What's worse, what happens when the whole Zune thing (inevitably) fails? Then what? Customers should expect, based on current behavior, that MS will change the format again and make you re-buy your music. How could a logical, sane person assume otherwise?

    (I know a guy, who despite my advice, bought about 2 grand of Plays for Sure music because "MIcrosoft is going to be around forever and they support their stuff." Needless to say, when he learned his music collection didn't work with his new Zune, he was at the Apple store a day later dropping 6 grand on a MBP, 30" display, nano and 5G iPod and tons of iPod accessories. Yes, one guy voting with his wallet--a fat one at that--but this guy is another data point on the tsunami that is building of CIO's, consumers, SMB customers, etc., who are sick of MS' lack of business ethics and their silly, silly games.)

    That, for me, is the kiss of death for the Zune. And it should be for all people. For it demonstrated all the lipstick Steve "We need to act like Industry Leaders" Balmer is putting on the Microsoft pig hasn't changed it's DNA. Microsoft is, and always will be, a monopolist protecting its Windows and Office franchise. At any and all costs.



    (Full disclosure: Never used Linux in my life. Nor Open Office. Use MS products daily. Don't "hate" Microsoft.
    But I can tell a person/company lacking morals and character when I see one. And I know a doomed product when I see one.)
  • by Aggrajag ( 716041 ) on Sunday November 26, 2006 @05:49PM (#16995060)
    A small registry hack so one can copy data off the Zune
    http://www.zunehack.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=7 [zunehack.com]
  • When we go to an antiwar protest, we always play "Spot The Fed" as we look for the inevitable FBI/Homeland Security plant in the crowd.

    Well, I think we need to play this game here on Slashdot!

    Who here is the RIAA plant?

    Who here is the Microsoft plant?

    You *know* they are here! Just like we knew, before we actually confirmed it, that there were Feds at the protests.
  • by DECS ( 891519 ) on Monday November 27, 2006 @01:34AM (#16998366) Homepage Journal
    As an early critic of the Zune, RoughlyDrafted caught a lot of flack, but it's delicious to watch Microsoft stumbling, not just because its a big company, but because the Zune was such a horrible, arrogant product. It was simply insulting that people were expected run to order Zune KoolAid. The company is so out of touch with reality that it thinks people will be giddy to pay hundreds of dollars for Vista, which is years late and underdelivering on its promises. Who is excited about Vista again? Who is excited about buying overpriced products from Microsoft?

    Even the Xbox 360 is hyped out of control. It barely sold 7 million units in a year--it was actually outsold by the five year old PlayStation 2 [roughlydrafted.com], which sold 11 million units in the same time period.

    Microsoft is fooling itself; it's time for the company to get real and start competing, because its empire is declining. Remember that Apple was also making craploads of cash deep into the late Sculley Era, when it was obvious that the company was about to crash. Microsoft has shadowed Apple's brush with death, making the exact same set of moves exactly ten years after Apple. [roughlydrafted.com]

    10 Ways Microsoft can Salvage their iPod Killer [roughlydrafted.com]

    10 iPod vs Zune Myths [roughlydrafted.com]

    10 More Myths of Zune [roughlydrafted.com] Why Microsoft Can't Compete With iTunes [roughlydrafted.com]

    Strike 3: Why Zune will Bomb this Winter [roughlydrafted.com]

    The Two Faced Monster Inside Zune [roughlydrafted.com]

Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him. - Fyodor Dostoevski

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