Mary Jo Foley:
Over the past few days, more and more Microsoft watchers are noticingthat Microsoft execs seem to be making a deliberate effort to avoid using the Z (Zune) word. That avoidance has set off a wave of speculation.
Some pundits claiming that Microsoft is moving to rebrand the service(Windows Live Entertainment, anyone?). As a Zune HD and ZunePass user — and one who is looking forward to syncing her Zune account to her Windows Phone (whenever Verizon finally delivers a WP7 model) — I was worried Microsoft might have decided to pull the plug on its Zune music/movie/TV service.
We had some good times, Zune and I. Remember this review that I gave before I even owned one? And who could forget my actual review after owning one?
Shortly after those reviews my Zune HD broke. It was in a pair of jeans I was wearing which I then dropped onto a banister for safekeeping. Who knew a 3 inch drop would warp the back of the ZuneHD and crack the screen? Not me.
So, why is Microsoft so hesitant to say the "Z" word? Are they getting rid of the brand? I'm throwing in my no-vote. They recently rebranded their Xbox 360 video services as the Zune Marketplace, and it would be very silly to ditch that name already. And when I say silly, I mean on a Microsoft scale of silliness. Regular silly scales go out the window in their case.
My guess is that Microsoft didn't want to throw out too many brands at once while speaking about their new Nokia partnership. As an IT engineer certified in the ways of Microsoft, it can get confusing very fast when talking about their services. I'm fairly certain their about about 90 official Microsoft services that will let you deploy an image to a workstation. Maybe 91.
But no sweat, that's why we're here for our clients. We cut through the fluff and get things done for them.
And what of it?!
My prayers to Santa were finally answered this Christmas. And when I say Santa, I mean my much more attractive girlfriend. I eagerly opened the gift she placed in front of me with glee normally reserved for that of a Civil War reenactment actor, called up for the big show. We've all seen that glow they have, don't lie to me.
The first thing I noticed after wiping the drool of my face was the weight of the Zune. More accurately, the lack of weight. This thing is light, son! Everyone, myself included, compares this product to the iPod touch. But it's so light that all I could think about was the iPod nano. After booting it up, I was treated to a funkadelic load screen, and the sad reality that the Zune HD is essentially a paperweight until you connect it to your PC. Drat.
I had been toying around with the Zune software for a few weeks. And what's nerdier, I had my media location set to my Dropbox folder, which now houses my entire music collection. When I make additions to that folder on another computer, so goes my Zune library. Pretty sweet. Something that is also quite succulent, is the fact that after the initial wired sync, you can use your own home wireless network to sync your Zune to your PC. That's right folks, no cables. Welcome to the future, Al Gore was right!
Hats off to Microsoft on the design of the UI for this player, it's the best I've seen on any MP3 player, iPod touch included. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that the Zune HD is a better MP3 player than the iPod touch. It's quite a sight to zoom through your library and see album artwork and band photos in the background as you browse. It's gorgeous. I had ripped some of my DVDs to a mobile version to play on my iPhone, and it translates very well to the Zune. The colors look even more vibrant on this player, in fact.
I might as well get the bad stuff out of the way before the big wrap-up. The players Wi-Fi does not work with the router that Verizon gives out for their Wireless FiOS. You read that right. I had to hook up a spare router as a bridge JUST to get the thing to use my wireless network. It's pretty astonishing that this issue hasn't been resolved as it's been out for several months. Sadface. The browser is based on Internet Explorer guts, and very similar to Windows Phones in how it renders pages. To put it another way, it's total junk. The apps that are out for the Zune, while few, are introduced by ads before the game loads. What? Thanks Ballmer, you clown.
But those things don't really bother me, because I have an iPhone for apps and browsing. (By the way, if you'd like more information on the mobile technology solutions we provide for iPhones and other Smartphones, check out our Mobile IT Solutions)
I have a Zune HD for playing music and movies. And it does it very, very well.
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If there's one reason people come to this blog, it's for reviews of products from people that don't even own them. And I aim to please.
The Zune HD is out and about, and it seems like a pretty solid PMP. That's Personal Media Player for those not as lame as I am. Now me, I have an iPod touch, one of those slow as heck first generations. So I'm in the market for a new one. And I think this may be it. Speaking of which, anyone want a used iPod touch? Sure it has some emotional engravings on the back that were about my last relationship that nearly ended in multiple lawsuits, but it still has the Bee Gees on it. I love me some Bee Gees.
Now, since I don't actually have a Zune HD, I'm going to be reviewing it mainly on looks, videos, and articles I've read from the Metro. They've got a real crack staff on that publication. I hear it's lighter than the touch, which is a plus, considering the touch was pretty light to begin with. And after watching some videos on Vimeo, I can honestly say the UI is a breath of fresh air from the iPhone OS. (what's Vimeo? Oofa, that's a blog for another day.)
But the real bread and butter of the new Zune is the fact that it becomes a media player on your flat screen. I enjoy the 360's interface, but just imagine that.....times a billion. See it now? Yea, it's pretty cool. One big sour point though, is that it seems like they aren't willing to open up their own version of the App Store. They're going to be putting out their own things here and there, because they don't want to confuse this with their Windows Mobile Marketplace. Hm, good move, since that's obviously the superior mobile OS. (did the sarcasm come through on that one?)
But the real bright spot comes with writing hidden on the manuals about being able to stream audio AND video to other devices. WHOA! That's what I wrote about in one of my last blogs, how I wanted it for the iPhone. Now I can literally sit on my rocking chair while reading this months Spider-Man and listen to Janet Jackson's new album without connecting anything. Take that terrorists!
I'd get into pricing and actual technical specifications, but who wants to be bored with those details? Not me sir. I have more important things to worry about, like when Kate Gosselins new talk show debuts.