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Sports Rule

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Microsoft Zune

Nov 11, 2006 — My brother wants to get an MP3 player and is comparing the Creative Zen Vision:M and the Microsoft Zune which of course got me reading up on it. Sounds like a pretty cool player. It's going to have build-in wi-fi (though no software to allow connection to a computer yet. But you will be able to wirelessly transfer songs from one Zune to another, which I think is pretty cool.

What I think is cool is what that opens the door to. Imagine hearing a song you like on the radio, stopping in a Starbucks or some place that has wireless access, connecting straight to the Zune on-line store (which they are building to compete with iTunes) and buying your song. Sounds cool to me!

One thing I don't understand at all is that this player will not be compatible with Windows Media Player. Seems to me that they would merge the two, similar to how iTunes has both a store and player. But apparently they aren't planning to do this. Sounds stupid to me.

I also read a rumor--and it is probably just that--that Microsoft will give people who buy a Zune free downloads of all songs they have purchased from iTunes. Essentially eliminating the barrier iPod users have of not being able to easily transfer their music to a different player.

Wirehead says:

Honestly, I'd probably go with the Zen if it were me. The Zune looks neat but some of the features seem a little crippled, and the bizarre non-support of MS's own media format and weird ideas about DRM on the Zune bother me.

I don't use filesharing services, I don't p2p music. Just about every track I have (about 7gb last I checked) is something that I own on a CD. I don't use any proprietary formats like itunes or Windows Media because the licensing is a colossal pain in the ass. I bought exactly three DRM-protected tracks once and lost the licenses the first time I reinstalled Windows and backed up the directory that actually contains the music, but NOT the license files. I'm sure there's a way to reclaim said licenses, but screw it. Why would I ever pay $0.99 per track (or whatever) when I can buy the whole CD on Amazon for three bucks and never, ever have to worry about DRM, restrictions on transferring tracks to/from portable devices, needing lower- or higher-quality versions for different devices (i.e. I might use 320kbps lossless mp3 for a large-capacity portable mp3 player or my desktop library, but for, say, my cell phone I might use 128kbps medium quality rips that use far less space).... I honestly can't see a single possible advantage to buying bit-and-piece tracks right now. I'll stick with physical media for now, thank you very much.

I think the concept of MS replacing your itunes library is ludicrous at best, given the legal problems they'd face if they tried something like that.

That said, just do a feature comparison and pick the one you like best - but do check into the wireless sharing feature, as I'd heard something about that only working with protected files, in other words that you couldn't use this feature with a non-DRM'ed mp3 that you made yourself. The songs that you transfer that ARE DRM'ed have a limited lifetime on the transfer, they go away after a few days. The idea is to let other people TRY your music out, without actually giving them a permanent copy of the song for no fee.

It's a cool idea and a step in the right direction, but my level of interest has yet to peak on this product. I want to see how it actually ends up working in the market, and if some of the conditions of using the neat features of the Zune get relaxed a bit.

If nothing else it will still work as a perfectly serviceable MP3 player.

lidge_34 says:

Yeah, before I had read anything about the Zune, my brother was describing it, and I was FLABBERGASTED by the player not being supported by WMP and Plays for Sure. Why build those two things up only to not use them when you release your own player??? That part still makes no sense to me. I would think that if nothing else, they would have built their music store into WMP. I imagine the songs bought from this store will be similar to iTunes in that only the Zune will play them. I HATE that! There ought to be ONE format, and I thought that was the whole point of Plays for Sure. I'm still waiting for someone to try suing Apple for having a monopoly, because of their proprietary music files.

In terms of the wifi, my understanding is that you can send any track, but the Zune will add on the licensing info to make it last only a few days. I don't like that--just MS covering their own asses.

While I tend to side with you in terms of purchasing music, I'd guess that MILLIONS disagree, since iTunes and other on-line stores have obviously been profitable. I think there are plenty of albums that have one or two good songs only, so it would be cheaper to pay the $2 than pay the $10 you're probably going to pay (okay, cheaper on Amazon, but still more than $2).

I agree on waiting on the Zune. If nothing else, wait for the 2G player, as I have to imagine there would be quite a bit of improvement.

Wirehead says:

Just to be absolutely clear, I don't want to give the impression I was being critical of MS for implementation of DRM that they were *REQUIRED* to implement by organizations such as the RIAA.

I've probably come across as a staunch supporter of the RIAA in the past, but I actually don't like 'em much. It's simply that I realize they have no other alternative to protect what they see as their business model, and honestly I think they're being about as nice about what they're doing as one could expect. People think they're being jerks by suing for $2500 per infringement or whatever the number is on the p2p cases, when that is the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM they can legally go after by statute. If they wanted to be jerks they could go after I think $150,000 per infringement. They also often only sue over a few infringements when they know the person committed hundreds or thousands. Anyway, that's sort of off-topic but the point is that in order to get licensing agreements from the studios so that they had something to sell on the Zune online store, MS was forced to implement these types of restrictions in the device or they'd have guaranteed it was nothing but a flop, since nobody will buy a device that you can't play anything on (other than your own MP3's, which the RIAA is convinced are all stolen anyway).

And yes, millions of people apparently disagree with me, but they're all idiots. [cough] No, I recognize that other people are going to have different requirements for usage than me. The problem is that the sound quality of the type of compressed audio files available on iTunes or other stores isn't necessarily what I'm looking for all the time. I can hear the difference between the original CD (which already has some loss-of-quality issues compared to the original analog audio signal due to sample-rate issues) and a 320kbps lossless VBR mp3 file, so buying one 128kbps-equivalent file isn't going to cut it for me. It's just not good enough for home listening or listening using a good set of headphones. When I'm traveling or using a space-constricted device like a flash-based mp3 player or even my cell phone, I'd only be able to get a few songs onto the thing if I used the sound quality I want, so I bump it down a notch. Online stores currently do not offer an option to get several versions of the same file at several different quality levels, as far as I know, and you still face the problem of losing license files or limited numbers of copies to/from other devices etc.

Anyway, just a clarification.

spincycle` says:

Microsoft's PMP...Zune...better acknowledged as the doodooPod.

lidge_34 says:

I was playing around with the Zune at Target yesterday, and I have to say, it LOOKS pretty sweet! Of course, when you're looking at the store you don't get to see how the interface works when connected to the computer, etc. But I was impressed with the screen, and the body design I think looks much nicer than either the Creative players or the iPod.

Another pluspoint, at least in comparison to the Creative? There are already third-party accessories being built specifically for the Zune. Not many yet, but already as many as you can get for the Creative players now. I think that is HUGE! As I have mentioned several times, I think the biggest reason not to buy the Creative players is the lack of accessories. If the Zune can create a market of accessories similar to the iPod, it will become a true competitor. And that is a great thing for all of us!

Wirehead says:

I'm confident the Zune will eventually be very successful, as it's a perfectly competent PMP device and has some neat features. The wifi thing will be very attractive to a certain group of users, and if they implement some other interesting functions it could become useful for everyone, not just people who want to swap songs with random strangers.

I agree the design is nice, the screen is much nicer than the ipod, (incidentally, I am henceforth boycotting any retarded marketing-department-inspired goofy spellings and/or capitalizations such as "iPod". It's either an Ipod or an ipod) and I like the somewhat soft-touch exterior setup. It's nice and grippy and gives the impression of durability. It just doesn't fit my needs at the moment.

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