Opinion: Engadget’s Microsoft Zune lovefest culminates in Zune giveaway

By SteveJack

Routinely lambasted here and by many others (see related articles below) for Microsoft’s choice of brown plastic, draconian sharing limitations, a fake click wheel that’s really just a four-way button, and other flaws, Microsoft’s re-branded Toshiba Gigabeat called “Zune” has interestingly found no such reaction from Engadget.

Their opinions on the Zune are so out-of-step with the consensus of the rest of the tech media and analysts, that it really grabs your attention; especially when they keep it up for days and days in the face of Zune pans coming from all angles. When a lone media outlet gets excited by and lauds a device while many, many other media outlets are, at best, underwhelmed by the same device, it should make one wonder what the heck’s going on. Note to Engadget, if you haven’t noticed during your busy week of trying to drum up Zune anticipation from gadget geeks, nobody wants a Zune outside of the Ballmer household – and they’re all brainwashed.

On September 14th, under a headline breathlessly exclaiming “Microsoft launches the Zune!” Engadget wrote:

Microsoft is busting out the Zune today, and we’ve got the rundown… As for ballyhoo, wireless Zune-to-Zune sharing is where the real action is at, and it works pretty much like we’ve been hearing: you can share a full-length track with a friend, and they’ve got three times to listen to it over a three day period, after which they can flag the song for purchase on the Zune Marketplace — unless they’re an unlimited “Zune Pass” subscriber, of course. You can also share playlists and pictures with your buddies, along with what we suppose are “unprotected” homemade recordings… Of course, it all really comes down to matching your Zune with that snazzy new fall wardrobe of yours, and to that end the Zune comes in black, brown and white. Sadly, Microsoft still won’t spill the beans on pricing and availability (other than a vague “this holiday season”), so we’ll keep an eye out for that just like always.

Yes, it’s so sad that Microsoft won’t let us know exactly when we can get our hands on one of these Zunes and how much we can expect to pay for the privilege.

Later the same day, Engadget covered initial reactions from a group of three bloggers that Microsoft flew out to Seattle for an “all-expenses paid first-look at the new device.” All were quite positive about Zune – in stark contrast to others who presumably were not treated to Microsoft’s “all-expenses paid first-look at the new device.”

• Glenn over at Coolfer thinks it feels a little heavy, but that the navigation is intuitive and simple. He likes the brown-colored Zune best, saying that it looks better in person than in pics (which we sure hope is the case).
• Amrit from Stereogum wishes it were thinner, but thinks the Zune’s wireless capability is “pretty hot.” He concludes that the “Zune is long on ideas, but may be short on time.”
• MOKB discovered the one confusing feature about the Zune right off the bat — the “scroll wheel” which turns out to be a directional pad, but actually liked the navigation once they got the hang of it.

See, according to Engadget’s exceeding limited and possibly tainted roundup of “The Blogsphere,” brown is cool, Zune’s limited viral DRM-wrapped Wi-Fi is pretty hot, and that fake scroll wheel – well, you’ll like it when you try it.

Also on the 14th, Engadget “interviewed” Microsoft Corporate Vice President J Allard, who Engadget referred to as “the one and only J Allard,” under a giant photo of Mr. Clean himself. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you think the “interview” is a puff piece or not. By any measure, “hard-hitting,” it ain’t.

After letting J Allard impart a Zune press release to their readers, Engadget reported on Zune’s expected battery life:

With wireless off we can expect a 12 hours of music playback at 128Kbps, 3.5 hours for video playback, and 4.5 hours when running a slide show. Compare that to the 30GB iPod’s 14/4 hours and the 80GB iPod’s 20/6 hours, and it’s a little difficult to fully envision the payoff for [Zune’s] added thickness and height. Still, remember: bigger screen, wireless, bigger screen, wireless. Ah well, we’ll just hope upon hope that’ll be something the [sic] fix before release in a couple months.

So, even with the Wi-Fi off, Zune’s battery sucks, but “remember: bigger screen, wireless, bigger screen, wireless.” Also, Engadget holds “hope upon hope” for a fix before release. Why is Engadget hoping so fervently for a Zune battery fix? Do they “hope upon hope” for iPod feature upgrades?

On September 17th, Engadget reported on a “Zune knockoff” thusly:

Everyone, say hello to Oriphe Industrial Limited’s MPF2110, which is “liking Microsoft zune” (yeah, we’re liking it too).

Get it, yet? Engadget likes the Zune. Don’t forget – well, forget about Zune’s battery life – just remember, “bigger screen, wireless, bigger screen, wireless.” Mmmkay?

On September 18th, Engadget reported on Wal-Mart’s slip-up of briefly posting the 30GB Zune’s price of $284 online, writing, “a whole $16 shy of the magic $300 number we were expecting Microsoft to hit isn’t too shabby.”

$284 for an untested first generation Microsoft product that’s really a re-branded Toshiba Gigabeat – with a fake click wheel designed to fool the ignorant, no less – that only works with Microsoft’s first generation Zune-only music store “isn’t too shabby” compared Apple’s 30 GB iPod that works with iTunes and also plays TV shows, video, and movies for only $249? Only on Engadget, folks.

Which brings us up-to-date, day five of the Engadget Zune lovefest. Under an 800×760 pixel montage of Zune promotional imagery, Engadget announces:

Kinda hard to believe Microsoft is giving us some Zunes to give away when they won’t even tell anyone when they’ll be out in stores (“holidays 2006”) — but make no mistake about it, Engadget’s going to be the first place to hook someone up with a Zune. You want to be the first among your friends — hell, the first ever — to get one? Here’s the deal…

In closing, I have only one question for Engadget: Was it just the free Zunes for your giveaways or is Microsoft paying you guys, too?

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

Related articles:
Microsoft’s underwhelming Zune a ‘viral DRM’ device – September 18, 2006
Motley Fool’s Jayson: Microsoft’s ‘just plain ugly’ Zune a meager offering, not an iPod killer – September 15, 2006
Crave at CNET: ‘Microsoft Zune, all the excitement that brown can bring’ – September 15, 2006
Microsoft’s Zune underwhelms – September 15, 2006
Enderle: Microsoft Zune ‘a design mistake’ – September 15, 2006
Microsoft hypocrisy exposed with Zune: What ever happened to ‘choice?’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune with fake scroll wheel ‘hardly an Apple iPod killer’ – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune won’t spoil Apple’s biggest iPod Christmas ever – September 14, 2006
Microsoft unveils Zune 30GB player, Zune Marketplace; declines to disclose prices – September 14, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft’s Zune an ‘underwhelming’ repackaged Toshiba Gigabeat; no threat to Apple iPod – August 30, 2006
Microsoft confirms brick-like Zune to be made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006
Microsoft Zune is chunky brick made by Toshiba – August 25, 2006
Zune: Apple cannot lose. Microsoft cannot win. – July 26, 2006

68 Comments

  1. “Snazzy”(!!!)…isn’t that a word used only by grandmothers and old aunts who say how “snazzy” you look in those new trousers they’ve bought for your Christmas gift (when you were hoping for an iPod, no doubt)? Zune does suck.

  2. It is a Zune Giveaway because no one wil buy them…

    Brown?! – goes with Ballmer’s hair… heh!

    I am sorely disappointed in Engadget…

    That interview with what’s his name must have muddled their brain…

    I don’t know if I will have room End-gadget in my bookmarks anymore…

    There is a “sold” sign on the door.

    MDN in bold

  3. wow this guy is a total douche.
    i mean, comon people everyone knows the Zune is gonna fail and all, but why does everyone feel the need to trash it so bad? dont get me wrong, i love my ipod as much as the next guy, but does that mean we have to be so cocky about it that everytime something good is said about a competing product we have to go on a rampage? I’m a long time reader of engadget, and personally, i like to see a site that talks about more than just the ipod.

  4. mrwright613,

    The issue is that Engadget seems to be promoting the Zune and their overall coverage of the Zune is very, very much at odds with many other tech media outlets. Now, lo and behold, Engadget is giving away Zunes?

    Come on, it’s not at all difficult to see.

    As usual, SteveJack nailed it.

  5. journalism student,

    MacDailyNews “hard-hitting” Apple:
    Apple in secret deal with Microsoft to hide Macintosh from world?
    So, where are all the new TV shows on Apple’s iTunes Store?
    I could market Macintosh better than Apple Marketing in my sleep
    Apple should STOP advertising hard drive-based iPods for joggers and runners

    There are plenty of other examples, too.

    Also, if you haven’t noticed, Engadget is supposed to be an independent tech gadget source. MacDailyNews (even in name) makes no secret of their “Appleness” even though they do criticize Apple from time to time.

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