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Second Time 'Round - the Zune Flash In-Depth 180

J Mallard writes "Ars Technica has an in-depth review of the new Zune Flash. The overall verdict? An improvement over the original, with some caveats. 'I suspect there's a special shotgun in Redmond passed around ceremonially to the different divisions so each can shoot itself in the foot. When the shotgun arrived at the Zune team HQ, it appears to have been directed squarely at one of the most promising new features the device has to offer: autosyncing of recorded TV content ... [Specifically,] DVR-MS support for unprotected standard definition TV recordings from Windows Media Center. HDTV and protected recordings are not supported.' Let me make sure I understand this: at this point, a consumer has purchased a PC, Vista, a tuner card, and a Zune, but still can't be trusted with high-def content? Nice.'"
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Second Time 'Round - the Zune Flash In-Depth

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  • but that... is quite a blunder there. Sure most people won't want to use it for HD content, but dissapointing the crowd with the loudest voice is usually a bad idea...
    • by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:12PM (#21369307)
      Content is content... if it's on your windows machine and a supported format, why can it NOT be played...especially if it was RECORDED on your machine!!!! By Windows... kinda dumb
    • by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:15PM (#21369363)
      The again, Microsoft's been screwing the HD content crowd for a while now. No clear QAM support (except for Cablecards, which is pointless), the Cablecard limitations, no DirectTV support (it's been "coming soon" since like early 2006), and so on. Even their MVPs are starting to lose their patience.
      • The again, Microsoft's been screwing the HD content crowd for a while now. No clear QAM support (except for Cablecards, which is pointless), the Cablecard limitations, no DirectTV support (it's been "coming soon" since like early 2006), and so on. Even their MVPs are starting to lose their patience.

        I don't know about the DirectTV stuff, but last I checked, the QAM is more from the cable providers, etc. not wanting that stuff available to the consumer, so making it an issue.

        AFAIK, no other OS has any encrypt

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:17PM (#21369387)
      Who the hell would need HD content on a 320x240 screen and with that small of a storage space?

      Fix the horrible playlist support on the Zune first. That was the one thing i was hoping they'd fix this time around but instead it's still an epic fail.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tim Browse ( 9263 )
        Well, (as I understand it) the video is always transcoded when syncing occurs, to match the Zune's screen/performance.

        This limitation means you can't sync certain shows you've recorded to your Zune, just because the channel/show happens to be in HD. Arbitrary annoyance, and kinda dumb, really.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        They didn't fix that for the same reason they didn't completely fix piss poor standards support in IE7 and instead spent five years (or however long it took to get IE7 out the door) focused on making the "groundbreaking" tabs and worthless anti-phishing filter. That, and screwing with the placement of important stuff on the toolbar and menu.

        MSFT focuses on stuff that is whizzbang and makes for good press releases instead of just making the damn thing work properly. Typical, and not surprising. Really, do
    • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:29PM (#21369553) Homepage Journal
      Why would anyone want it for HD content? The screen doesn't even support NTSC resolution. Starting out with HD won't make a noticeable difference when it has to be scaled down anyhow.
      • by ByOhTek ( 1181381 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:33PM (#21369615) Journal
        Simple - people don't want things because they are rational, they want them because they are spiffy.

        And it saves the time to downconvert it by hand if it can be done on the fly (though if you have a transfer app, you should just use that).
      • I recently got an iPod Nano Video. All the shows I've taped with SageTV get converted using a special conversion profile I've set up which basically amounts to 320x240 MPEG4 with 128 kBit/s AAC sound. You can get an hour of TV in 140 Megs. This means I can keep a lot of shows on my tiny 4 GB Nano. The screen doesn't support higher resolutions anyway, so no point taking up space for it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Toonol ( 1057698 )
        Better harmonics and a warmer picture! It doesn't have the harsh, digital flavor of NTSC resolutions.
      • That's simple -- to transport and play on a friend's TV or computer. Next question?
    • but dissapointing the crowd with the loudest voice is usually a bad idea...
      This seems to be the Microsoft motto: Be the loudest voice in the crowd shouting 'I'm mediocre to subpar'
    • Ok, wait, don't get the complaint here.

      What kind of screen is on this thing that it could actually DISPLAY HD content? The original Zune was only 320x240, and I can't imagine this one, even if improved, could be more than SD-resolution.

      Is the complaint that the Zune doesn't allow you to play content that it's physically unable to display? Because, even for Slashdot, that's retarded.
  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <yayagu AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:49PM (#21368973) Journal

    I think this is what is most bothersome, and tiresome, about the treadmill that is Microsoft's products, advertising, etc. From the article, yet again:

    Only recently has the company admitted what was clear from the outset: the first Zune was rushed to market (it was a "sprint cycle," in Microsoft terms), and "compromises" were made in order to make that happen.

    It's hard to imagine how this goes on and on, but it does. I don't know who it reflects more poorly on, Microsoft's disingenuousness (word?), or the public's collective willingness to be fooled again and again.

    I've often referred to the Charlie Brown - Lucy tension as the perfect metaphor... Lucy promises to placehold the football so Charlie can kick it. He falls for it every time and she never fails to pull it away at the last second (I keep hoping there's one strip where she doesn't pull it away, but I never saw it.... anyone?). We, the public are Microsoft's Charlie Brown. Sigh.

    • by joto ( 134244 )
      Charlie Brown? Lucy? You must be getting old, and I'm above 30...
    • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:23PM (#21369465)

      I've often referred to the Charlie Brown - Lucy tension as the perfect metaphor... Lucy promises to placehold the football so Charlie can kick it. He falls for it every time and she never fails to pull it away at the last second (I keep hoping there's one strip where she doesn't pull it away, but I never saw it.... anyone?). We, the public are Microsoft's Charlie Brown. Sigh.

      I had long hoped to speak to Charles Schultz about this very item. It was my fond hope that in the very last Peanuts strip that Lucy wouldn't pull the ball away, and Charlie Brown finally kicks it...

      ...right into the Kite Eating Tree.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dprovine ( 140134 )

      Lucy promises to placehold the football so Charlie can kick it. He falls for it every time and she never fails to pull it away at the last second (I keep hoping there's one strip where she doesn't pull it away, but I never saw it.... anyone?).

      There was an episode of American Masters on PBS a couple weeks ago about Charles Schultz, and his wife said that some time after he'd finished the final cartoon he'd said something to the effect that "Drat! I ended the strip and he never did kick that football!"

    • Last I understood, no one was fooled the last time.

      Microsoft may have invented an entirely new form of advertising, called "Eye-Ware".

      They know perfectly well their 0.1 release of something is garbage ... but it sits on a shelf actually in front of a real shopper.

      Then their 3rd revision becomes mostly usable, at which point their FUD campaign may have had time to work.
    • I think that's an imperfect analogy.

      I'd posit that Microsoft is more like Garfield, Cathy, or Family Circus. They're all there on the comics page, sometimes called the "funny papers," so week after week, you expect them to be at least mildly funny.

      And yet, they never are. Not only that, but they're pitifully unfunny in the exact same way every week, and it's almost impossible not to read them in the vain hope the authors got a sense of humor, especially since they're practically FORCED down your throat by
  • But (Score:4, Interesting)

    by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:49PM (#21368979) Journal
    But will it run Linu^H^H^H^H rockbox [rockbox.org]?

    Probably not.
  • HD? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:50PM (#21368997)
    HD content displayed at 320x240 on a device with an 8GB capacity? Yeah, that makes a ton of sense.
    • Re:HD? (Score:5, Informative)

      by DingerX ( 847589 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:06PM (#21369213) Journal
      Uh, the point was:

      If you have a TV tuner, you can set it to auto-record shows, and the Zune software will transcode it (and presumably bust it down to 320x240) for the Zune, and wirelessly sync it up. If you have a HD tuner (or even just a digital one, on some reports), it won't work.

      The "coolness factor" isn't in the HD, but that you can record your daily television shows (say last night's talk shows), and they'll be automatically put on your device for the morning commute. The "shotgun-to-foot factor" is that it doesn't work unless you have an analog tuner card, even though analog broadcasts are going to disappear.
      • Re:HD? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:42PM (#21369787)
        Some times you can see a glimmer of cool going on inside Microsoft. It's kind of a bummer, because obviously they have to have a lot of really bright folks working there. It seems when you get a certain level above peon is when it turns into the corporate monopolist with an eye on world domination everyone hates. Granted a lot of places work like that, but somehow MS always seems to take it to a new level.
    • I was a bit baffled as well from the summary, but it isn't really about HD content. According the the article the zune won't support digital content recorded using windows media center and a tv-tuner card.
  • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <hagan DOT jared AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:51PM (#21369021)
    Only recently has the company admitted what was clear from the outset: the first Zune was rushed to market (it was a "sprint cycle," in Microsoft terms), and "compromises" were made in order to make that happen.

    Translation: Release it. Fix it in SP1
    • Translation: Release it. Fix it in SP1

      No, no, no. That's pretty much standard for most software. Microsoft's version actually goes like this:

      Release it. Fix most of it with SP1, introduce new problems and incompatibilities. Repeat with subsequent patches until software becomes obsolete.
  • Positive review (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RonnyJ ( 651856 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @03:57PM (#21369109)
    So why is the only quote in the summary from the only really negative bit of the review?

    Heres another quote, from the conclusion:

    We expect that the new lineup will help Microsoft become an established player in the PMP space over the next year. The updated devices should also put an end to the almost-endless set of Zune-related jokes, and they are an obvious choice for anyone who loves subscription music services.

    • Re:Positive review (Score:5, Insightful)

      by niceone ( 992278 ) * on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:09PM (#21369247) Journal
      So why is the only quote in the summary from the only really negative bit of the review?

      Ummmmm, because this is slashdot?
    • Because this is Slashdot of course! M$ is the spawn of Satan and anything they create must be mercilessly ridiculed from our Windows PC's at work while we whittle away the time until we can get home to play more 360. Didn't you know that???

      In all seriousness though, I'm glad to see all of the improvements. I personally don't like iPod much because I don't like paying $250 for a device (actually, I won mine, so technically it was free...but the principle still holds true =) ) with a battery that conks ou

      • "Because this is Slashdot of course! M$ is the spawn of Satan and anything they create must be mercilessly... "

        Oh, and I thought ms was the spectacular, tentacular, fecal discharge of satan. Maybe even "separated at birth?" sometimes. But, "spawn" is generous.

        Enjoy Slant.dot
      • If it conks out in 6 months it should be covered by warranty.

        Says so right here [ipodbatteryfaq.com] and would, in any case, be an implied consumer right under many 'fitness for purpose' consumer protection regimes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AndersOSU ( 873247 )
      I wouldn't call it the only negative part of the review.

      My one sentence summary of the review: "It's a pretty neat devise that mostly does what you'd expect a music player to do, but there are some stupefying design decisions, and it doesn't really offer anything that will allow it to make significant inroads into the iPod dominated market."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hondo77 ( 324058 )
      Because you have the line in your own post: "...and they are an obvious choice for anyone who loves subscription music services." Music subscription services are such a small part of the online music market as to be a joke themselves. If you want to be an iPod-killer, you don't focus on a market that even Napster is giving up on [slashdot.org].
      • by RonnyJ ( 651856 )
        Being a good choice for people using music subscription does not mean it would automatically be a bad choice for those not using subscription services.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:00PM (#21369143) Journal
    You are mistaken in thinking the person who bought all that and wants to watch the TV program is the customer. Sorry. You are wrong. That person is the product. The advertisers and content owners who want to protect it using ever increasing amount of DRM is the customer. Got it? Now it all makes sense, doesn't it?
    • by joto ( 134244 )
      Mod this up! It's probably the single most insightful comment in this discussion!
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:18PM (#21369399) Homepage

      That idea is sorely underrepresented in a lot of discussions about "media content". Even ignoring the ad breaks in TV shows, there's still product placement within the shows. If you haven't seen it yet, either you don't watch TV or you haven't been paying close enough attention.

      When you really evaluate what's going on in media companies, it's clear that even a lot of content that you pay for is still designed to serve as advertising. The music and movies you buy are rigged and designed to get you to buy into related brands and merchandizing. Listen to a record executive for a few minutes, and you'll realize that what they're really interested in is branding, marketing, merchandizing. The music is an advertisement for lifestyle products, clothing lines, etc.

      So the business model, under this light, is the consumer as a customer. The content owners/producers are providing a service, but you aren't the customer, you're the product. The customer are the huge companies who produce loads of crap that no one really wants or needs. The service being provided is to convince you (essentially the product) into believing that you want and need crap that you don't actually want or need.

      • While I certainly agree that the content producers are in the business of selling eyeballs to advertisers, rather than content to viewers, it is important to remember that the only way a content producer can produce a supply of eyeballs is by making something that causes the viewers to show up. If things like ad-riddled drm encumbered content, or an onslaught of insipid writer-strike driven reality tv alienates viewers to the point that it causes them to stop watching the content producers will find themse
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          You are correct in saying though the cash is paid by the advertisers and product placers, unless the content delivers eyeballs, it is not going to sell anything.

          The current business model is that the viewers pay with their time, the time they watch unwanted portions of the broadcast. And a few pay with actual dollars, pay per view, DVDs etc. But those who pay with money are swamped out by those who pay with their time. As it is the internet pipes are getting fatter and pretty soon it will be possible to

          • As people desert the pay-with-your-time model and switches to pay-with-dollars model, there will be a seismic shift in the broadcast TV industry.

            Probably not. Even if you pay for it, they're going to stick ads in it. One of the things you have to understand is that they make way more money with ads than if you pay for it. You might be thinking, "If people have to pay to watch their favorite shows, they won't be willing to sit through ads!" But remember, people thought cable TV was crazy because "no on

          • "The disposable income is even more skewed. 90% of all the disposable income in the country is in the hands of 10% of the people."

            Isn't that kind of a useless statistic? If disposable income is what you have left over after you pay for the basic necessities to not die, isn't it obvious that rich people are going to have most of the disposable income?

            And that's not to say that the other 90% of the people can't afford DVD's or cable. You're using percentages when absolute numbers are required.

            And broadcaste
        • Ha! You think people are going to stop watching TV if the content is bad enough?! Hogwash. It doesn't matter how horrible and stupid TV shows are, people will never stop watching TV. It's too hypnotic. Too easy an escape. All broadcasters have to do is runs ads that successfully convince you that you'll be happier if you watch their show instead of the other guys'.

      • Wait, wait, wait, you're telling me that there was product placement in my favorite show ever: Viper?

        And terrorists in real life don't drive around cities in identical brand-new Dodge Caravans?

        Ridiculous!!

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108983/ [imdb.com]
        • It's gotten much more integrated in weird ways. There was an episode of Heroes recently where Clarie's father gave her a car. No big deal, except that Claire mentioned the brand name of the car, and how cool the car was was. Then they had a commercial break with a commercial for the same car. It was one of the more obvious/awkward moments of product placement in Heroes (there's TONS of product placement in that show), but I wonder how many people didn't even think about how weird it was.

          Really, product

          • Kind of a woosh there. I posted that because Viper was nothing but an hour-long Chrysler ad loosely based on Knight Rider.
            • Not woosh. I knew what you were referring to. I was just saying that it's gotten more subtle and made its way into more mainstream and arguably "good" shows and movies. I mean, Viper pretty well sucked. And wasn't it one of those syndicated deals? (i.e. it wasn't on a particular network, but would appear on your local crap station)
      • What's even more funny is that the consumers (the product) are expected to shell out several hundred dollars for Zune devices so that they can become products.
      • by AJWM ( 19027 )
        Even ignoring the ad breaks in TV shows, there's still product placement within the shows

        It's not working. There's no way I'm ever flying Oceanic, and I haven't been able to find any Dharma Initiative brand products in any of my local grocery stores.

    • Why do I hear this so often? Why can the customer not be both the person watching and the person advertising? Simply because one pays money and other does not? No, the content is the product. The customer is both the watcher and the advertiser; the content provider is incentivised to provide quality programming to please the watcher, and the please the advertiser. Thus they make money.

      Should this be the way it is? I don't think so. I'd pay money for a quality show. They could give new shows away for free t
    • by Eivind ( 15695 )
      Got that part a long time ago.

      This also explains why Lwn, which at Johns last status-update had like 90% of its income directly from subscribers and 10% from other sources (including advertising) is as stellar as it is.

      Apart from the fact that the staff is on the level, it can't hurt that the subscribers are the actual customers, the ones whose opinion matters. There's something to be said for that.

      If Advertisers and Readers have different interests on Lwn -- the advertisers yield. Which is very different f
  • at this point, a consumer has purchased a PC, Vista, a tuner card, and a Zune, but still can't be trusted with high-def content?
    C'mon, if they'd purchased Vista and a Zune they'd be pretty pissed off and I wouldn't trust them either.

    (Seriously, I have Vista and have been more than happy with it.)
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @04:19PM (#21369409)
    Until they get rid of that ridiculous limit on playback of WiFi shared files -- especially non-copyrighted files -- Zune is just an annoyance with potential.

    What makes it all doubly stupid is that Microsoft is able to identify copyrighted files that aren't allowed to be shared (e.g. Frank Sinatra) through WiFi.

    • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

      Well... Yes and no. The problem is, of course, that 99% of the content people will end up "squirting" to each other will in fact be illegal. After all, like Apple has admitted themselves, the VAST VAST majority of a user's music library consists to ripped, downloaded or otherwise finangled music that are not downloaded off any online store. Sure, you could scan track names and try to guess at its copyright status, but that's neither foolproof nor a good solution.

      So MS was staring at two options:

      1 - All

      • by nagora ( 177841 )
        After all, like Apple has admitted themselves, the VAST VAST majority of a user's music library consists to ripped, downloaded or otherwise finangled music that are not downloaded off any online store.

        In what way is ripped an issue here? I have thousands of tracks ripped of my CD collection. I paid to listen to those tracks; I didn't "buy" the CD any more than I "buy" a cup when I go to Starbucks (try serving me a blank CD or an empty cup to find out the distinction between media and content).

        So. You go

        • First, of course he doesn't have a problem with that. I'm just short of certain of that. But you just wanted to take a small segment of his sentence and jump on it and call him wrong.

          Second, it doesn't matter what YOU think about whether piracy is free advertising or a crime or what. It doesn't even matter what Microsoft thinks about that. It matters what others will think of Microsoft "promoting" piracy in this way. Who, you may ask? Why, the people the GP listed and you cut out of your response. Th
    • Why are you blaming ms about this? Do you really think Ballmer came up with this limitation? Even MS cant muscle the music industry. Hell, Im surprised they can even do this as-is knowing the tactics and history of the RIAA. Now if some sympathetic engineer would release a patch that broke this little limitation, well, that would be pretty nice.

      Then again I bought a refurbished zune from woot for 80 dollars. THe 200 or so dollars I saved over buying the over-priced and just-as locked down ipod makes me
  • Unfortunately, it's not just Microsoft. Cable and Satellite providers have things so locked down that doing what *I* want with the HD content I pay for is simply out of the question. I use an HDHomeRun [silicondust.com] box in conjunction with SageTV [sagetv.com], which will let me record both OTA and clear QAM HD channels over cable, but the offerings are limited, and it's certainly NOT a system for Joe Sixpack. While it is nice to be able to watch and record HD content, unless it's clear (unencrypted) you are out of luck. Cable, DirecT
    • It's my understanding that TiVo HD and Series 3 have the ability to decode and record encrypted programs via CableCARD. True that you would have to use a company box for satellite, but at least there have been rumors that DirecTV will probably start offering TiVo DVRs again soon [betanews.com]. It's still unlikely that those boxes will include support for TivoToGo by default—but people were able to load the standard TiVo software onto the old DirecTiVo, so who knows?
  • Quite a bargain (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InlawBiker ( 1124825 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#21370219)
    The old one is now a great bargain. I have the old 30gb model, I won it at a charity auction. I always liked the thing, but with the new firmware and software it's really nice. I've seen them for $85 online with free shipping (in the U.S.) Not bad for a 30gb player with wireless and video!
  • It still looks too generic and cheap, it looks better than the original Zune, but still looks like a toy and not something sophisticated for adults.
  • DVR-MS support for unprotected standard definition TV recordings from Windows Media Center. HDTV and protected recordings are not supported.' Let me make sure I understand this: at this point, a consumer has purchased a PC, Vista, a tuner card, and a Zune, but still can't be trusted with high-def content? Nice.

    I fail to see why anyone would be surprised by this, we are seeing this everyday in so many different ways, but especially with content. Smart people have been thinking long and hard how to get arou

  • Only recently has the company admitted what was clear from the outset: the first Zune was rushed to market (it was a "sprint cycle," in Microsoft terms), and "compromises" were made in order to make that happen. So Microsoft started over.

    Sweet! Only one rev left until we get to MS's famous "adequate" 3.0 phase!
  • "The Social" was moved online, where Zune users might actually find others to share their musical tastes with.

    (No additional comment needed.)
  • by JonXP ( 850946 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @07:10PM (#21371757)
    I'm a Zune owner, and I record Terrestrial Broadcast HD shows. My Zune syncs with them fine, after the software does its automatic (and transparent to the user) conversion for resolution and space. This is on my old Zune 30GB, even. I'm not sure why the article says that non-DRM'd HD doesn't work...perhaps they only tried a DRM'd video and assumed it all wouldn't work?
  • Wow...just....wow. They are copying the Apple business model of what, three years ago? Now that apple has moved onto miniscule Nanos and Touches, Microsoft comes up with a clone of the 1st Gen iPod Nano? What's next, Microsoft? Are you going to showcase a new "Shuffle"?

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