Zune In Review

About two weeks have passed since Zune’s American release and reports are popping up all over the place. Microsoft’s entry into the Portable Music Player market isn’t going over too well with most tech scribes, but the Chicago Sun-Times went straight for the jugular:

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.

The setup process stands among the very worst experiences I’ve ever had with digital music players. 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?

[Microsoft] has already given the music industry the other thing the industry has been demanding from Apple: a kickback on every player sold.

“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?

Then go ahead and buy a Zune. You’ll find that the Zune Planet orbits the music industry’s Bizarro World, where users aren’t allowed to do anything that isn’t in the industry’s direct interests.

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.

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.

The Zune is a complete, humiliating failure. Toshiba’s Gigabeat player, for example, is far more versatile, it has none of the Zune’s limitations, and Amazon sells the 30-gig model for 40 bucks less.

Throw in the Zune’s tail-wagging relationship with music publishers, and it almost becomes important that you encourage people not to buy one.

Microsoft’s colossal blunder was to knock the user out of that question and put the music industry in its place.

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

Ouchie! So we’re guessing somebody out there got one, and we wanna know about how it’s working out for ya. You “squirting” with ease? If you’re frustrated with Zune’s inability to function as an external harddrive, might wanna check here.

After a few weeks of play time and review reading, whaddaya think about the project’s prospects for success? As if the cards weren’t stacked against MSFT’s anti-iPod already.

Wait, for reals? Not an anomaly?!