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Mossberg, Pogue unimpressed by Microsoft Zune

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, November 9, 2006
News Categories: Digital Media

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The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg and The New York Times’ David Pogue, two of the most well known and widely read tech columnists, both give less than stellar marks to Microsoft’s Zune media player in their reviews of the device today. While both writers give the Zune credit for a handful of features—with Pogue even calling the device “excellent” at one point—they both offer up fairly damaging final reviews.

“This first Zune has too many compromises and missing features to be as good a choice as the iPod for most users,” Mossberg writes. “The hardware feels rushed and incomplete. It is 60% larger and 17% heavier than the comparable iPod. It has much worse battery life for music than the iPod or than Microsoft claims—at least two hours less than the iPod’s, in my tests. Despite the larger screen, many album covers look worse than they do on the iPod. And you can’t share music libraries between computers like you can with iTunes… Overall, the iPod and iTunes are still the champs. Still, I expect the Zune to attract some converts and to get better with time. And this kind of competition from a big company with deep pockets and lots of talent is good for consumers in the long run.”

“Competition is good and all. But what, exactly, is the point of the Zune?” asks Pogue. “It seems like an awful lot of duplication—in a bigger, heavier form with fewer features—just to indulge Microsoft’s ‘we want some o’ that’ envy. Wireless sharing is the one big new idea—and if the public seems to respond, Apple could always add that to the iPod… The Zune 1.0 player is pretty barren, too. It doesn’t have a single standard iPod amenity: no games, alarm clock, stopwatch, world clock, password-protected volume limiter, equalizer, calendar, address book or notes module. Incredibly, you can’t even use the Zune as an external hard drive, as you can with just about every other player on earth.”

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Comments

21

I know iPod, iPod is a friend of mine, and Zune you’re no iPod!

Posted by Aodh in New York on November 10, 2006 at 9:00 AM (PDT)

22

I love the iPod, but I know Apple and I know Microsoft.  After November 17th the iPod will be Beta and the Zune will be VHS. 

Remember Windows 3.11?  That was a joke compared to the Macintosh.  Then came Windows 95…

Posted by Dness on November 10, 2006 at 9:42 AM (PDT)

23

Dness, but lets not forget that Beta was superior in all aspects over VHS.  Picture quality, size, etc.  Besides, how can you compare the iPod to that anyway?  Beta was Sony, not Apple.  The Zune still uses a proprietary store, as well as not being able to be used like something you’d assume it could be, and that’s an external Hard drive.  I for one, am not holding my breath on this one.

Posted by Dness on November 10, 2006 at 10:16 AM (PDT)

24

Dness, you point is true about MS doing better with v2.0 of, well, everything. But seems to me like Zune’s myriad customer-unfriendly compromises were put in place with heaps of industry-friendly input. That’s the only thing that makes sense when you see the compromises listed out. With that said, I don’t see them going away with v.2 or v.10. BTW, I just read that Universal is now getting a cut from every Zune sold. WTF is that all about?

Posted by Laer on November 10, 2006 at 10:32 AM (PDT)

25

After November 17th the iPod will be Beta and the Zune will be VHS.

Funniest thing I have read all day….

Remember Windows 3.11?  That was a joke compared to the Macintosh.  Then came Windows 95…

And I have never looked back…..

....since dumping Windows….

Posted by Bob Levens in UK on November 10, 2006 at 10:33 AM (PDT)

26

“After November 17th the iPod will be Beta and the Zune will be VHS.”

Horrible analogy.  Beta and VHS were 2 new standards fighting to see which one would become the de facto standard - just like Blu-Ray and HD-DVD today.  iPod is the reigning king of the DAP industry and has been for some time and Zune is just another newcomer trying to replace it.

Posted by dodo on November 10, 2006 at 11:41 AM (PDT)

27

I USED THE ZUNE LAST NIGHT…

I got a chance to play with the Zune last night at Microsoft’s release party in Los Angeles and I gotta say I love the thing. 

I have braced myself for the flames to come, and I plan on buying a Zune Tuesday in response to all the iLoungers who are going to tell me to buy one if I love it so much.

The navigation is fast and effective despite not having a scroll wheel.

The menu structure when moving through your music library is very efficient.

The wireless feature is cool.

The Zune is awesome.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on November 10, 2006 at 11:53 AM (PDT)

28

Good luck with the new Zune Talking Madness.  While I think it looks interesting, I think I’ll wait and see how it goes. 

The wireless feature really interests me, but not with how they crippled it.  Can’t really use it unless you know someone else who has a Zune.  Stupid move on Microsoft if you ask me.

Posted by ucfgrad93 on November 10, 2006 at 12:16 PM (PDT)

29

Hey, Buy what works for you is my motto.

I loved the window’s 95 comment. I have a funny, playful response.

“The box said windows 95 or better, so I bought a mac” :-D

To each their own. It sounds like the Zune will be an alternative for some, but it’s got some catch up to do. The most disappointing thing is the larger screen with the same resolution…

Posted by Stuart on November 10, 2006 at 12:19 PM (PDT)

30

Will be interested to see user response on the Zune once they become available.  Talking Madness, please post your experience once you have yours.

No matter how it pans out, I hope it spurs Apple to make better iPods, which in turn spurs MS to make better Zunes, and so on…

Posted by dodo on November 10, 2006 at 1:31 PM (PDT)

31

The wireless feature is not as crippled as some who like us to think it is.  You send someone a song, they listen to it three times and if they like it they can go and buy it.  Better than nothing and far from crippled.  Anything more would be piracy, wouldn’t it?  Transferring songs is also quite fast.  If you wanna give someone the song permanently, just email it to them at a later time (yes, that would most likely be piracy, but that’s what most who say the wireless feature is crippled really want to do).  And, to use the Steve Jobs method, you can always let a hot girl listen to your Zune earbud (sharing your earbud with a hot girl isn’t something the iPod has an exclusive on).

How can you say it’s a stupid move on Microsoft’s part that you can only share songs with other Zunes?  You can’t call someone on their cell phone if they don’t have a cell phone.  You can’t play tennis with someone if they don’t have a racket.  And, you can’t communicate wireless with an iPod if the iPod doesn’t know how to. 

What more do you really want from the wireless feature?  Put it out there and you may see it in future versions of both the Zune and the iPod.

The Zune definitely has some catching up to do, and I have no way of predicting how many will dump their iPods for it.  I’m inclined to switch myself based on my experience with player, but the software still remains to be seen.  There are many other players I may have stayed with if they had software as elegant as iTunes.  I hear the Zune software is a winner, but I can’t say that firsthand.

Contrary to what Mossberg and Pogue said, PC Magazine gave the Zune a great review…

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2054204,00.asp

Guys, this really is a hot player.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on November 10, 2006 at 1:39 PM (PDT)

32

Zunies need to learn to spell first.

It’s patience NOT patients.

Zuneasses

Posted by davewhite on November 10, 2006 at 3:00 PM (PDT)

33

First everyone here with half a brain which according to these comments must not be much knows that firmware updates will hit the zune after launch like a fat kid on christmas cake. Second I understand that we all love iPod and i have a 5Generation myself but does that mean we can’t all honestly take a hard look at what’s going on here. Every last complaint both writers made with the exception of the unit’s width, depth, and height can be fixed with a firmware update. I also really love the fact that someone doesn’t even take the time to realize that anyone with an IQ hovering somewhere around room temperature can learn how to use the microsoft points system if they give it a chance. Get real here i’m not a Microsoft fanboy and i’m not a Apple one either but if we could all agree that there’s a market for the device however small that would be great until then lets try and damage the zune with some honest complaints instead of tired old arguments we’ve all heard seven hundred times. P

S If I remember correctly iPod/iTunes isn’t fool proof either my computer is still recovering from installing iTunes 7 and it’s a Mac.

Posted by Travis on November 10, 2006 at 4:34 PM (PDT)

34

Let me say I hope the iPod remains strong. 

Beta was better than VHS, as the Macintosh is better than Windows, and the Edison cylinder was better than the 78s.  People buy what they want, not what’s better.

MS has relied for years on its customers just not caring about things like “quality” and “soul.”

Posted by Dness--the real one on November 10, 2006 at 6:58 PM (PDT)

35

Talking Madness, of course PC Mag is going to give this thing a good review, it’s from Microsoft…

Posted by MatrixSJD on November 10, 2006 at 8:25 PM (PDT)

36

The only thing I kinda like about the Zune is the way it displays album arts during browsing, vs text only iPods. Other than that, everything else is mediocore and nothing special.

1. Navigation. Despite the cool album arts browsing, navigation with iPod’s click wheel is still superior. There are certain spots in the zune’s GUI that is quite confusing (ie. rating a song, instead of using the left/right to set how many stars you want, you have to keep pressing the middle button to cycle the number of stars)

2. With iPods being gapless capable now, there is no excuse for new players like the zune to not have this capability.

3. Video, you need to transcode everything to WMV. Sure, iPods use MP4, but IMO MP4 is more “standard” than WMV. Oh, and don’t forget Cowon A2, a device released a year ago, but still superior in codec support vs current devices.

4. Wireless. A great potential turned into a useless gimmick, thanks to DRM. You cannot use it for file transfer, so what’s the point.

Zune will be a flop. sure, in the short term, it will semm to be popular just because it’s the “new” thing on the market (it’s not even new, it’s just a rebadged gigabeat). However, once people realizes the limitations (eg. wifi) and Apple unleashed their next gen iPods, that’s it.

Posted by pata2001 on November 11, 2006 at 2:11 AM (PDT)

37

pata2001-

It sounds like you actually got to use a Zune.  I appreciate that your comments seem to be based on actually using the Zune, rather than just speculation.  But, I got a different impression than you did from many of the features.

1. The UI is very effective. I like that when you are in one category all it takes is a click to the left of the right to go to another category.  For example: If I’m scrolling down the ‘artist’ menu and realize I could probably get to where I want to faster by being in the ‘album’ category all I have to do is click right to move over to that category or any other.  Basically when you go into a menu item and navigate up and down through it, all the other categories remain available by clicking left or right.  There’s no need to go back to the previous menu.  Kinda hard to explain with words, but I thought it was great in action.

2. Have you actually confirmed the Zune doesn’t have gapless playback?  The music that was loaded at the Zune release party wasn’t intended to be gapless so I don’t know if it has this capability or not.  You’re right in saying it’s a detail the Zune shouldn’t have overlooked if that’s the case.

3. Aside from the format issues that plague both the Zune and the iPod, I gotta say the video playback on the Zune was very smooth.  I’ve never been satisfied with the video playback on my iPod Video—hard to scroll through TV shows and lots of lag.  I didn’t experience this with the Zune, but then again I didn’t test any long form content on the Zune, only videos 10 minutes or less.

4. I’m really surprised how many people have taken to knocking the Zune for adding a feature that no other player has.  Steve Jobs did a good job of knocking the Zune by implying that you would miss out on hot chicks by fiddling with its wireless features.  A lot of people have bought this hook, line and sinker, but it’s simply not true.  The wireless feature is cool.  How much you will use it remains to be seen, but the implementation of it is cool and well done.  And yes, DRM is thorn in the side of every pirate out there.

The Zune is not gonna flop.  A few mistakes have already been made, but nothing that can’t be fixed.  The thing is really gonna take off when they introduce a smaller form factor to compete with the nano—that’s where people’s real passions currently lie.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on November 11, 2006 at 11:40 AM (PDT)

38

Travis: Regarding the microsoft point system. I don’t think that anyone is saying that the microsoft point system is hard to use. The problem is that it is being suggest that people are being forced to pay “upfront” for purchases.

If I’m browsing through and see one song I want, I have to put up 5 dollars to get it and the microsoft get’s to invest my money.

We leave in a gift card society, i know where we are happy to let Starbucks have twenty dollars of our money upfront in exchange for convience, but in an online setting it is crazy to think that this is a better model than being able to have a credit card on file that can be charged for each purchase.

That’s the problem with the point system, not that it’s hard to use.

Posted by Stuart on November 11, 2006 at 11:52 AM (PDT)

39

Talking Madness:

I think its a bad move on Mircosoft’s part because you can’t download songs wirelessly.  You can’t sync using wifi. 

The only thing the wifi is good for is sharing songs.  And how many people are going to be around your circle of friends that will get a Zune.  It has potential to be great, but right now its going to take awhile for the user base to grow, which limits the use of sharing songs.

Right now, I have a 30GB black iPod.  What is the compelling reason for me to leave it and get a Zune?  Can’t sync or download songs wirelessly.  I don’t really listen to FM radio.  And iTunes has more music, videos, movies, etc. than the Microsoft store has.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think the Zune has potential, and I’m not bashing it.  I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts and reactions to owning a Zune.  However, right now, I don’t see a compelling reason for most iPod owners to switch at the current time.

Posted by ucfgrad93 on November 11, 2006 at 12:00 PM (PDT)

40

I gotta admit it, just came back from Target, and checked out the zune. Its pretty hot. The brown, green color combo, is by far the best i have ever seen on a player. Also, the material its made with is like self healing plastic, so i dont think it will scratch as much. I love the screen, and like the idea of turning it on its side to watch videos. I use my ipod for music and an occasional video. I hate to say it, but the zune might do that better right now. I might buy one…

Posted by lupinIII on November 11, 2006 at 2:17 PM (PDT)

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