Mossberg: MS Zune has ‘too many compromises, missing features’ vs. ‘thin, sleek, elegant’ Apple iPod

Microsoft’s “Zune has too many compromises and missing features to be as good a choice as the iPod for most users. The hardware feels rushed and incomplete. It is 60% larger and 17% heavier than the comparable iPod. It has much worse battery life for music than the iPod or than Microsoft claims — at least two hours less than the iPod’s, in my tests. Despite the larger screen, many album covers look worse than they do on the iPod. And you can’t share music libraries between computers like you can with iTunes,” Walter S. Mossberg reports for The Wall Street Journal.

MacDailyNews Note: The Zune’s screen is physically larger, but it’s the same resolution as Apple’s iPod screen at 320×240. So, you get larger pixels and a more pixelated image with the Zune.

Mossberg reports, “Zune’s online store offers far fewer songs, just over two million, compared with 3.5 million for the iTunes store. In fact, as of this writing, songs from one of the big labels, Universal, were missing from Zune Marketplace, though Microsoft says it is confident it will have all the major labels when it launches Zune on Tuesday. Also, despite the player’s capability, Zune Marketplace offers none of the TV shows, movies or music videos that iTunes does, and has no audiobooks or podcasts.”

MacDailyNews Note: Obviously, Microsoft was desperate, so they made a really bad deal with Universal. Please see: Microsoft to pay Universal for every Zune sold – November 09, 2006

Mossberg reports, “Even worse, to buy even a single 99-cent song from the Zune store, you have to purchase blocks of “points” from Microsoft, in increments of at least $5. You can’t just click and have the 99 cents deducted from a credit card, as you can with iTunes. You must first add points to your account, then buy songs with these points. So, even if you are buying only one song, you have to allow Microsoft, one of the world’s richest companies, to hold on to at least $4.01 of your money until you buy another. And the point system is deceptive. Songs are priced at 79 points, which some people might think means 79 cents. But 79 points actually cost 99 cents.”

“Zune has only around 100 accessories at launch, versus 3,000 or more for the iPod,” Mossberg reports. “Placing the Zune next to the 30-gigabyte iPod provides a strong contrast. The iPod is thin, sleek and elegant looking. The Zune looks big and blocky, sort of like a prototype for a gadget, rather than a finished product. It is longer, thicker and heavier than even the 80-gigabyte iPod, which has more than twice its capacity.”

“The word ‘Microsoft’ never appears anywhere on the Zune…,” Mossberg reports. “The wireless music-sharing feature on the Zune is heavily compromised, in a way that is bound to annoy the very audience it is targeting. Each song sent to your Zune from another Zune can be played only three times and is available for playing for only three days. After that, it dies and can’t be played again unless you buy it. Even if you play the song only halfway through, or for one minute, that counts as one of your three allowed plays. In fact, in my tests, a song I sent to my assistant’s Zune expired after only two plays, one of which lasted just a few seconds. Microsoft attributed that to a bug that it said would be fixed.”

“The Zune’s other big plus, the big screen, is similarly compromised. While it is three inches versus 2.5 inches for the iPod’s screen, it uses the same resolution. That combination can make images coarser and grainier,” Mossberg reports. “And for a product that’s all about ‘the Social,’ Zune is curiously lacking a very popular iTunes feature — the ability to view and to listen to another user’s music library over a local network.”

Full review with much more here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Island Girl” for the heads up.]
Now the real reviews begin. By that we mean, not the “reviews” from bloggers flown to Microsoft HQ to be wined and dined, all expenses paid, but actual product reviews from people who do it for a living. All of the astroturfing, all of the fake “pro-Zune” comments on iPod sites, all of the typically sleazy Microsoft fakery and disrespect for the potential customer, will all be for naught. Now that impartial people can report, it’s not going to be pretty for Zune, folks.

Related articles:
NY Times’ Pogue: Zune should come in green to match Microsoft’s iPod envy – November 09, 2006
Microsoft to pay Universal for every Zune sold – November 09, 2006
Analysts: Microsoft Zune may end up being a flop – November 08, 2006
Are 58% of iPod owners really thinking of a Zune switch? – November 08, 2006
Survey: 58% of iPod owners planning another MP3 player purchase will consider Microsoft’s Zune – November 01, 2006
Zune is from Microsoft, but Microsoft doesn’t want anybody to know about it – November 07, 2006
Microsoft Zune to be US-only, no firm plans to launch anywhere else globally – November 03, 2006
Five Microsoft Zune TV commercials – November 02, 2006
JupiterResearch: Apple’s iPod will dominate for foreseeable future; Microsoft’s Zune insignificant – October 25, 2006
Ellen DeGeneres Show gives away Microsoft Zunes, studio audience goes berserk – October 23, 2006
More Microsoft Zune myths explored – October 20, 2006
Five more Microsoft Zune myths – October 18, 2006
Microsoft Zune intensifies chaos in Apple iPod+iTunes also-ran market – October 16, 2006
Newsweek Q&A: Apple CEO Steve Jobs discusses iPod’s impact, Microsoft’s Zune, and more – October 15, 2006
Microsoft’s Ballmer: Zune device not money loser, wishes Apple’s 30GB iPod was $299 instead of $249 – October 11, 2006
Microsoft’s consumer electronics track record: long string of failures – October 11, 2006 founder: ‘Zune will be an expensive failure for Microsoft because consumers aren’t stupid’ – October 06, 2006
Microsoft fails to secure key Zune domains – October 04, 2006
Microsoft rigs Zune with tricky pricing and proprietary money schemes – October 03, 2006
Why Microsoft’s Zune won’t kill Apple’s iPod – October 03, 2006
10 Apple iPod vs. Microsoft Zune myths – October 02, 2006
Analyst: Zune could lead to ‘civil war’ between Microsoft and Windows Media partners – September 29, 2006
Thurrott on Microsoft’s Zune: ‘The makings of a disaster, what the heck are these people thinking?’ – September 29, 2006
Analyst: Microsoft Zune’s as good as dead on arrival – September 28, 2006
Microsoft sets 30GB Zune price at $249.99 – September 28, 2006
How Microsoft’s Zune can kill Apple’s iPod – September 21, 2006
Microsoft’s Zune insanity – September 21, 2006
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Motley Fool’s Jayson: Microsoft’s ‘just plain ugly’ Zune a meager offering, not an iPod killer – September 15, 2006
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Crave at CNET: ‘Microsoft Zune, all the excitement that brown can bring’ – September 15, 2006
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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
Microsoft to sell single Zune model this fall, rumors of Wi-Fi capability were greatly exaggerated – August 10, 2006
Microsoft to spend hundreds of millions, several years on Zune trying to catch Apple iPod+iTunes – July 27, 2006
Zune: Apple cannot lose. Microsoft cannot win. – July 26, 2006


  1. Go Zune!!
    I will never buy one and most folks I know are laughing at it but IF it comes to mean any sort of competition for the iPod, that will only spur Apple on to create better iPods, improve the iTMS and iTunes itself.
    I love competition. This one is probably going to be ruled ‘no contest’ but the more $$ Microsoft pours into the Zune, the more Apple will pour into the iPod and that will be better for all of us!
    (except those poor folks who actually purchase a Zune)

  2. The zune is representative of the company that hatched it. Microsoft is arrogant inept and virtually incapable of bring a competitive product to market. The zune is a joke, as is vista and almost everything else that come out of redmond these days.
    Microsoft is going to have to incentives the crap out of these turds or they will never sell more than a handful.

  3. I like how the first MDN note is just paraphrasing what Mossberg says later in the article. What was the point of adding that, to make it seem like you’re actually adding useful and insightful information to the article?

  4. Very few people buy music from the iTunes store and those that do on average only buy 20 songs.
    Few people will buy from the Zune music store, too.
    This will be a non-issue to the vast majority of Zune buyers.

    PLus Microsoft is using the points system to tie in with Xbox. Watch for the synergy between Xbox and Zune to develop.
    And there must be another product on the way starting with the letter “Y”. So Microsoft could have:

  5. Striike two!
    Since Toshiba had to recycle their failed mp3 player as the Zune, then Microsoft will have to recycle theirs when it fails again. Maybe for the third attempt at selling this beast, they can call it either the Sdrut or Parc.

  6. “Songs are priced at 79 points, which some people might think means 79 cents. But 79 points actually cost 99 cents”. Talking about deceptive and confusing?
    So the bigger screen is bigger but not better at the same resolution as the iPod.
    They were right, it is a turd in the field of music players.
    As an iPod family I’m not touching this product with a ten foot pole.

  7. This is kind of funny. The Zune copies the iPod, and Vista copies Tiger. Both LAST YEAR models. I can’t wait till MacWorld when both will be shown to be miles ahead still of the latest microsoft items. And Microsoft didn’t catch up, Apple just decided to listen to consumers and stop upgrading things at such a rapid pace. I can’t wait for the next iPod and Leopard to be out, and be years ahead of the Zune and Vista.

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