Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Doubts about the Zune

As the Zune sees its release into the wild, numerous doubts and issues have arisen. These range from hardware to software problems and quirks, and leave the Zune's usability in doubt.

For one, there is the problem with the software that connects a Zune to a computer. The software is of course for Windows, but strangely there is no integration with Windows Media Player. Microsoft has spent a great deal of money developing Windows Media Player, but they don't even integrate their flagship music device into it? It sounds like it would be a lot easier to simply integrate Zune support into WMP11.

Then of course Microsoft has the Zune Marketplace. Again, where is the integration with WMP11?

Speaking of the Zune Marketplace, consumers are sure to be confused as they buy "points" to spend on Zune songs. But why is it that $1 = 80 points? Shouldn't it be more like $.01 = 1 point? People aren't good at math, so the latter idea sounds like a no-brainer.

It seems to me that the problems with the Zune stem from Microsoft's attitude toward consumer products. Namely, Microsoft has a vendor-based attitude instead of a consumer-based attitude. This is a product that's supposed to be big this Christmas, so why try to please the vendors so much? Microsoft is paying a fee to Universal Music Group, it probably isn't integrating the Zune Marketplace with WMP11 because of the Urge service, and it requires an entirely new program to be installed. People don't like how that sounds. Apple does integration perfectly for the iPod: One program, one store, prices in actual money.

On the plus side, the Zune has lots and lots of features. It's big on features, unlike the iPod - which does a few things and does them well. Microsoft definitely wants to out-feature the competition. They also want to convert you from the iPod camp (not likely) by offering free WMA versions of songs you bought from iTunes.

But in between use (listening) and functionality (the computer) comes the interface (the software). The software is definitely the weak point in Microsoft's launch, a lesson that needs to be learned as soon as possible.

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