Zune FUD II

The amount of Zune FUD is reaching staggering proportions following Microsoft’s Zune launch.

C.W. Nevius has a blog post over at the S.F. Chronicle titled “Zune Reinforces Microsoft’s Dorky Image“. Nevius links to TechTree that claims:

For starters, in order to download the Zune software, a user’s system has to meet certain requirements; namely, Win XP SP2, processor running at minimum 1.5GHz, and so on. By comparison, Apple Computer’s iTunes 7 software does not have any such hardware requirements.

Actually, the CPU requirement for the Zune software is 500 MHz, just like for the iTunes software. The 1.5 GHz Zune requirement is only for video playback.

TechTree also claims:

Also, to download the Zune software, users’ need to use only Internet Explorer 7 (IE 7). The software cannot be downloaded by using Mozilla’s Firefox for instance.

Actually, the software downloads just fine with Firefox.

The Mac zealots will have you believe that the Zune is no threat to Apple. If they really believe that, why do they resort to FUD?

Another example is Andy Ihnatko in an article titled “Avoid the loony Zune” for the Chicago Sun-Times:

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.

The iPod owns 85 percent of the market because it deserves to. Apple consistently makes decisions that benefit the company, the users and the media publishers — and they continue to innovatively expand the device’s capabilities without sacrificing its simplicity.

Companies such as Toshiba and Sandisk (with its wonderful Nano-like Sansa e200 series) compete effectively with the iPod by asking themselves, “What are the things that users want and Apple refuses to provide?”

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

Mr. Ihnatko would have you believe that Apple listens to the user’s needs, while Microsoft listens to the music industry’s needs. Yet the Zune lets you sync non-DRM’ed music back to your computer and the iPod doesn’t (the iPod only allows you to sync DRM’ed music back). From ExtremeTech’s Zune review:

Reverse Sync: Just as it is with Media Player 11, getting songs off your Zune is a snap. When you select your Zune on the left side of the player, you can browse the content that’s on it by artist, genre, etc. Not many people notice this, but the right-hand sync pane will now say “drag items here to create a list to sync from [Zune Name] to your computer.” Just drag whatever tracks, albums, or artists you want to dump from your Zune to your PC media library, hit Sync, and you’re golden. Simple. The hoops you have to jump through to get music off your iPod look silly by comparison.

Imagine that! Microsoft providing users with a feature that Apple refuses to provide. Not that a Mac zealot will ever admit to any such thing.

The Zune definitely has its drawbacks: software installation takes way too long (hopefully fixed in the next version, there’s no reason why it should take so long), hard drive access not enabled by default, misleading points system for purchasing songs, lack of MacOS X and Linux support, etc. However, when a reviewer fails to say anything good about the Zune, such as noting the sync files back to computer feature, it’s obvious that the reviewer has been exposed to the Reality Distortion Field for way too long. From Wikipedia:

RDF is the idea that Steve Jobs is able to convince people to believe almost anything with a skillful mix of charm, charisma, slight exaggeration, and clever marketing.

19 thoughts on “Zune FUD II

  1. RegularReader

    Ok, let me admit that I am more or less representative of the average crowd of the zune, average in terms of my knowledge about zune.

    I did not follow it closely and most of what I know is the negative comments of zune such as

    - No ability to use it as a storage device
    - Points system (some say its good, some bad)
    - Does not play drmed PlaysForSure music (but neither does non-ipod devices play with music from itunes)

    In places like slashdot, there’s mostly negative comments and reviews about the zune and the chicago-sun article that you mentioned also appeared on the front page. Most comments were about the failure of zune and how microsoft is stupid and so on. Not once have I seen a comment that it supports things like ReverseSync.

    The amount OBJECTIVE reviews between zune and the ipod is low. Sure the ipod has its place but I do not understand why people who have the ipod have to thrash the zune so much. If you already have an ipod, then you probably have a music collection that you like and you probably won’t want to buy another mp3 playing device. You probably wouldn’t thrash mp3 players from say.. samsung, iriver or any of the other million brands. So why thrash microsoft?

    Another thing about the colour, some say the brown is bizarre but I disagree, it does look cool. But hey, its microsoft and its cool to hate microsoft, right?

    But its a good thing that you took a non-fanboy stance to this entire issue and look at a product based on its advantages and disadvantages. Go dvd-jon!

  2. KickF

    Yea I must agree … there are a bunch of wrog info out there on the net. I was thinking of buying a Zune … manly couz it`s NOT a iPod and that the screen on the zune looks great … but now that I have read what newsites etc. have to say I don`t know … I like to be the first to have such nice gadgets but .. now it seems I have to wait to see when a friend of mine ore something get one and let me play around with it and so befor I make up my mind. The think I realy hope is that someone hack the OS on that player and removes all the limites it has … just have to stick with my iRiver flshplayer intill then .. but I can`t fit my musiccollection on that one :( … only 4GB on my iRiver .. but iRiver rock since it plays so many audioformats … let`s hope MS follow up on that on the Zune and bring up more support for other audioformats … I myself is a great fan of lossless audioformats .. and have much of my music i FLAC …

  3. Alex Rodriguez

    I am an owner of both IPOD and Zune. I tend to like the zune more. I have grown away from P2P like Limewire and all the others. The Zune marketplace has allowed me to get music that is extremely hard to find and can’t be found on the Itunes store. So That is a Plus for Microsoft. I think the IPOD has its place in the MP3 world, and microsoft has its place in the OS world.
    I have one problem with the zune. Once the zune is filled up it startes to skip. I will be listening to an album and come the 3 song or any song after that the zune will freeze for a couple seconds at the begining. I don’t know if this is a problem with all zunes or maybe i just grabbed the wrong one and it has a defect. I don’t know.
    The Zune is simple to use. Video is excellent on the screen. A lot better then watching it on the IPOD screen.
    Microsoft picked good colors for the zune. I bought the black. It turns out it isn’t just black. It has a greenish color when looking at it through light.
    Well that is all I have to say bout that. Try the zune out before u dis the zune

  4. Chad Logan

    My finance pointed me to this article. I find it funny how “apple” people can’t find anything right with the world that isn’t “apple”.

    I’m not a Microsoft slappy by any means, but I really like the Zune so far, it quickly replaced my aging I-River h-10.

    Thanks for seeing things outside the granny smith green shade of “apple”

  5. Gene

    It’s about time that a credible source like you points out the absurd, cult-like behavior of biased reviewers, like Andy Ihnatko and that corpulent idot at Forbes.com (an otherwise great publication). Thanks for doing so.

    Gene from ZuneChannel.com

  6. HighPriest

    I think that the iPod is just a better designed product. I am personally willing to give up support for ReverseSync to have a better digtal music experience. Once a product that is better designed and has a better interface I will get rid of my iPod.

    Regular reader, I hate Microsoft, but I love the brown colour I think it is great!

  7. John

    yeah I dont get it either.

    however I use fairUse4WM to take the DRM off my napster subscription music.

    I wanted to get a Zune becuase FU4WM leaves the song as a .wma and I could not find any program that would convert the files WMA -> MP3 and keep the metadata.

    however if i just keep the files as wma and get the Zune, im set. It saves me 5 bucks for not having to get the “to go” version of napster that only works with plays4sure.

    I do think MS made a mistake in not supporting plays4sure, but they just copied apples totalitarian business model.

    I have played around with the zune and I think its a nice device that looks good, is intuitive and sounds great. the menus are nicer than the ipods and so is the screen. I think its an excellent option for people that have a whole bunch of wma’s like myself.

    however I have not bought one yet so I cant say anything about the software, but im about to load it on my pc to hook up some video streaming for the xbox360.

    Good article Jon, you “da man”.

  8. Dave

    As I see it, the main problem with the Zune is that by purchasing it, you automatically give money to Universal Music Group — money that may or may not get funneled to their artists. Sure, they say the artists will get paid, but which artists and how much?

    I’m an eMusic subscriber and avid podcast listener with my own indie music podcast. I put my music money where my mouth is, and I refuse to give the RIAA and its members any of my money, because all it does is give them more ammo for lawsuits against music lovers. If I buy a Zune, I’m paying money to a label which I don’t support and which believes everyone who owns an MP3 player is, by default, a “music thief.”

    As far as I’m concerned, that just makes all the other points about the device itself moot.

  9. LinkFollower

    I have not used a Zune, so I cannot speak to that, but I have witnessed Apple vs. Microsoft fights before. Many mac users probably have pent up anger at Microsoft so that when the shoe is on the other foot, i.e. MS being the small dog, they show no more compassion than they were shown. I think this could be a good thing for Zune users. Look how mac users all flock together and are zealots for the products as a result of persecution. Now the Zune users can have a slice of that kind of fun.

  10. J Blake

    Say what you will about Apple, but at least they are consistent with their business model.

    What is baffling to me about Zune is the hypocrisy Microsoft has demonstrated with their choice of a closed music format for Zune. Not only because there are countless instances of Microsoft executives bashing Apple for their closed FairPlay format – but the fact they have more or less ditched all their ‘Plays For Sure’ partners and customers with the introduction of Zune.

    Wouldn’t the most loyal Microsoft users be a little miffed to discover their loyalty to the company, assuming they drank the ‘Plays For Sure’ kool-aid, was met with a new closed format? What about all the licensees of the Protected Windows Media format? It doesn’t play on the Zune, either.

    It would seem to me the first step of the Zune launch was to burn their most loyal fans… the ones who should be convincing the rest of us to buy Zunes right now…

  11. Brian

    My problem with the Zune is that Microsoft seemed to do everything wrong. They had a perfectly good medium in place for selling music, playsforsure. But, in true Microsoft fashion, they abandon their “partners” Rhapsody, Napster, etc. and create their own competing standard. OS/2 Anyone?

    Then, when they finally get Windows Media Player right, they don’t use it! They replace it with another piece of software. WMP 11 would have been an EXCELLENT program. Make up your mind Microsoft, do you want us to use it or not?!

    Further, every Zune customer is automatically deemed a criminal by Microsoft and Universal Music in the form of an automatic $1 fine on a crime that you were not accused of, charged with, or given the chance to defend yourself from. Of course, Microsoft wrote the book on treating their customers like criminals.

    The Wifi feature? Honestly, how many of you are actually going to use it? Sure, it would be cool if you were in a band and wanted to hand out your demo, but even that is useless with the DRM throttle on it. The other trick is that you have to find other people with a Zune.

    Radio? It’s like I don’t already have my entire music collection on the damn thing already. What else is radio for, traffic and weather reports? I can listen to those in my car or at home.

    But wait, there’s more! If you want to buy a song, you can’t just “buy” a song. No, you have to jump through hoops and buy points which correspond to dollars in really weird ratios, so get out your calculators, kids!

    They could have done a LOT better. First, they should have stuck with PlaysForSure, then it would appeal to the anti-iPod crowd with music they already bought through alternative services. Secondly, their philosophy of rolling over for the record companies is not going to fly with consumers. Thirdly, the points system has got to go. The whole *reason* for buying music online is that you can buy individual tracks easily. They need to learn the lesson that putting up point of sale barriers does not equal success. People want to pay for the music and get the music, end of transaction. Finally, WMP 11 should have been the main platform, but of course MS isn’t exactly the most eager about interopability between their OWN DAMN PRODUCTS.

    I guess the main lesson here is to not buy DRMed music in the first place. Buy CDs and rip to mp3. You will be able to play those mp3 files no matter what device you buy, and you won’t be tied down to a music store. Sure, physical media may cost a little bit more, but the freedom from DRM is completely worth it. Down with DRM!

  12. Gabriel

    J Blake says:
    Say what you will about Apple, but at least they are consistent with their business model.

    Consistent? bah!
    What about those Intel is evil! PowerPC is good? Is this consistent? The thing is, Apple zealots always forgets the cons of the company. It’s the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field working, I know.

    Not that there was a problem with the change of processors, but hey, let’s put the hypocrisy aside, shall we?

    I own an Ipod, I am really pleased with the product, and won’t change. But hey, This isn’t a religion folks! All companies change their ways over time. Thats evolution.

    just my 0.02

  13. BJ Nemeth

    There is a key difference between the switch from PowerPC to Intel chips and the switch from PlaysForSure to Zune. The Intel Macs are (mostly) compatible with all the same software and accessories as the earlier PowerPC models. Apple went through the same thing when they switched TO PowerPC processors back in 1994, and in both instances, none of their customers were left out in the cold.

    However, any Microsoft customers who purchased music in the ironically-named PlaysForSure format will NOT be able to use them with the Zune.

    Changing business plans are a fact of life. Screwing over your customers isn’t.

  14. gclassy

    The real problem with including PlaysForSure support in the Zune would be that the Zune would be competeing with Microsoft’s PARTNERS. To the company, going into direct competition, is worse than competing with itself. J Allard was honest when he said, the Zune is for a different customer than the PlaysForSure devices, that customer is the one who wants a simple, single, and most importantly tightly integrated store, player, and device.

    What would Samsung, iRiver, Creative, and MobiBlu think if Microsoft came out with an MP3 player that had “special” features that competes right in their turf, the PlaysForSure ecosystem? Microsoft wanted to create a store, player, device combo that would compete with the iTunes model and it did just that and props to DVD Jon for debunking some of the FUD. The Zune is a great device and I know a number of people who love it.

  15. 3ak

    RE: Zune dropping Play4Sure support.
    1st and foremost MS is not dropping support for Play4Sure, you can see this with more services like Vcast (which uses p4s) coming online. Microsoft wanted to make sure that they controlled the e2e experience so that they could get a more consistent experience, this makes perfect sense. I read an interview with J. Allard a while back (before Zune was released) and he said that in the future other HW manufacturer might be able to make products that play into the zune ecosystem. Think about it, this way they can have a quality control system instead of 100 different players with 90% of them being shit. They can also make sure that companies abide by a given standard. For instance we have a billion of these iPod accessories. That works b/c they all have a standard interface that accessory designers can count on. Now compare the various p4s devices, there is no standard. On the software side it also allows them to not depend on failing business (yahoo music and napster are both not profitable – money is always made on the HW, you can thank apples monopoly ;) for that – and rhapsody has their own DRM solution which they could get working with their devices any day now). A service closure (or shitty 2nd party experience) will now not hurt the Zune brand. But who know, Zune is easily upgradeable and new features will come online as they get developed.

    RE: Giving money to RIAA
    Yeah, Microsoft REALLY wants to give its hard earned profits, err, losses (They are not profitable yet) to another company. Sense the sarcasm? I’m pretty sure the universal saw that they had MS bent over their knees and they also saw a way to get back at apple in their next negotiations. MS needed access to that music to compete. Apple now has a real dedicated competitor, and Universal now has leverage over apple to get the same deal as they got with MS. Don’t think you have heard the last of these types of deals. Apple and Microsoft are tech companies, they don’t want to have to deal with the RIAA but they have to in order to get out the services that they make.

    RE: Zune vs. iPod.
    Both great products, I have an iPod and my girlfriend has a Zune. It seems to be pretty much a wash to me (each has their strong suits, my iPod nano for example is really small, but the Zune’s screen is so sexy) so you should shop based on what you want.

    RE: Apple bias in reviews and such
    It is only natural for people to hate the leader and cheer for the underdogs, so people tend to side with Apple. One thing that is interesting is that Apple has for years given its computers out to journalists, reporters, actors, producers, directors, musicians and now bloggers. This obviously has some effect but really the problem is the Applite are people who are very devoted to that corperation. I never have really understood it myself, I always thought that people who were against MS should be against all forms of big abusive busniess: they should use Linux (and not by things from way worse companies like DeBeers and Exxon/Mobil)! My general rule is if you are an Apple fan I assume you are a pompus ass, if you are a linux fan you are a contrarian and if you are a MS fan then you are a fortune 500 company or a gamer.

  16. Kent

    The Mac Zealots really bother me. I’m an avid Mac User and evangelize the Mac User experience to anyone who will listen. I own 2 iPods and love them both. The Zune is not my cup of tea but I can see the neat features. The Wifi sharing is cool but unfortunately the 3 day limit on files that are not even DRM’d is a letdown (It makes sense for DRM’d files it can be argued). The interface is not too bad although I don’t find it as intuitive as the iPod. The screen quality is quite nice. It’s pretty chunky but doesn’t feel so bad in your hand. I hate the brown one but not techy friends of mine who are more fashionable than I am absolutely love the brown and say that brown is the latest, greatest fashion conscious choice in color.
    I can’t comment on the Zune store because I’ve not purchased any music from it. It would be a deal breaker for me and people so far have not had glowing reviews of it.

    The Zealots would have you believe that only Apple can make any form of consumer electronics. The Zealots make the rest of us Mac lovers look like idiots — STOP IT… BTW it’s about time that we had Wireless syncing with the iPod

  17. dimitris

    I’m with Dave above. Here’s the key thing to remember:

    This whole space (personal music players) is about entertainment. Knowing that part of what I paid for my entertainment device goes to Doug Morris who calls me a pirate gets in the way of my entertainment. So, no Zune for me and everyone I have and will influence.

    It’s called ill will.

  18. Johnny Walker (aka ThunderPeel2001)

    Thank God for ExtremeTech’s review and this excellent blog. They are the only two voices of sanity I have found and for a while I was beginning to worry: To me the Zune seems like an pretty decent competitor to the iPod, but for some reason I was called names for pointing out some of the excellent features it has. (Jon, do you know that the Zune also lets you reverse sync onto FIVE different PCs – so you can share your music with your girlfriend, friends, whoever. Another nice touch!)

    Watch in horror as I ask some people, who I assumed would be normal rational thinking people, what they thought of the Zune:

    http://forums.idlethumbs.net/showthread.php?t=4737

    If Apple has Steve’s RDF, then Microsoft must have something working in the opposite direction. Even when they do good, people see it as flawed!

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