NY Times’ Pogue: Zune should come in green to match Microsoft’s iPod envy

“Microsoft is probably the greenest company in all of high tech. Not green in the environmental sense — green with envy,” David Pogue reports for The New York Times. “Microsoft is so jealous of the iPod’s success that Tuesday it will unveil a new music system — pocket player, jukebox software and online music store — that’s an unabashed copy of Apple’s. It’s called Zune.”

“The amazing part is that it’s Microsoft’s second attempt to kill the iPod. The first was PlaysForSure — a gigantic multiyear operation involving dozens of manufacturers and online music stores,” Pogue reports. “But PlaysForSure bombed. All of them put together stole only market-share crumbs from Apple. The interaction among player, software and store was balky and complex — something of a drawback when the system is called PlaysForSure.”

Pogue reports, “So now Microsoft is starting over. Never mind all the poor slobs who bought big PlaysForSure music collections. Never mind the PlaysForSure companies who now find themselves competing with their former leader. Their reward for buying into Microsoft’s original vision? A great big ‘So long, suckas!'”

Zune “can’t touch the iPod’s looks or coolness, but it’s certainly more practical. It’s coated in slightly rubberized plastic, available in white, black or brown — yes, brown. It won’t turn heads, but it won’t get fingerprinty and scratched, either. It sounds just as good as the iPod,” Pogue reports. Zune is “noticeably thicker (0.6 inch vs. 0.4), taller (4.4 inches vs. 4.1) and heavier (5.6 ounces vs. 4.8)” than Apple’s comparable model iPod.

“What looks like an iPod scroll wheel, though, is a fakeout. It doesn’t turn, and it’s not touch-sensitive. Instead, it’s just four buttons hidden under the compass points of a plastic ring,” Pogue reports. “Scrolling accelerates as you press the top or bottom button, but the iPod’s wheel is much more efficient.”

Zune’s Wi-Fi “all works well enough, but it’s just so weird that Zunes can connect only to each other. Who’d build a Wi-Fi device that can’t connect to a wireless network — to sync with your PC, for example? Nor to an Internet hot spot, to download music directly? Microsoft also faces what’s known as the Dilemma of the First Guy With a Telephone: Who you gonna call? The Zune will have to rack up some truly amazing sales before it’s easy to find sharing partners,” Pogue reports.

“The bigger problem, though, is the draconian copy protection on beamed music (though not photos). You can play a transmitted song only three times, all within three days. After that, it expires,” Pogue reports. “You can never resend a song to the same friend. A beamed song can’t be passed along to a third person, either.”

“Microsoft’s store doesn’t sell TV shows, movies or audio books. The music catalog is much smaller — 2 million vs. 3.5 million on iTunes — a fact that Microsoft ham-handedly tries to conceal by listing stuff that it doesn’t actually sell, like Beatles albums,” Pogue reports. “The Zune store is also missing gift certificates, allowances, user-submitted playlists and so on. And believe it or not, the Zune store doesn’t let you subscribe or download podcasts.”

“Naturally, you also miss out on the 3,000 iPod accessories: speaker systems, microphones, cases, home and auto adapters, remote controls and so on. Over 80 percent of 2007 cars will have an iPod connector option — zero for Zune. And there’s only one Zune model; there’s no equivalent of the iPod Nano or Shuffle,” Pogue reports. “Competition is good and all. But what, exactly, is the point of the Zune? It seems like an awful lot of duplication — in a bigger, heavier form with fewer features — just to indulge Microsoft’s ‘we want some o’ that’ envy.”

Much more in the full review here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Jonathan T.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Mossberg: MS Zune has ‘too many compromises, missing features’ vs. ‘thin, sleek, elegant’ Apple iPod – 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
MP3.com 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
The Microsoft Zune 1.0 dud – September 20, 2006
Microsoft’s underwhelming Zune a ‘viral DRM’ device – September 18, 2006
SanDisk teams with RealNetworks against new common foe: Microsoft Zune – September 18, 2006
Creative does Apple’s dirty work by immediately attacking Microsoft’s Zune – September 17, 2006
Motley Fool’s Jayson: Microsoft’s ‘just plain ugly’ Zune a meager offering, not an iPod killer – September 15, 2006
What’s in a name? ‘Zune’ a French-Canadian euphemism for penis or vagina – 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
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. The only thing I will give Microsoft credit for is the rubberised plastic. Now there implementation of it looks shit but the iPod does get scratches and show up finger prints and people do buy rubber like cases to protect them. It could be a good idea if well implemented. Shame Microsoft will balls it up.

  2. Now the real reviews are here, the MS Zune department is busy re-sending revised sales targets to Ballmer..who can’t be a very happy bunny.

    In fact, the “Protect a Chair Association of America” is thinking of putting an injunction on him for his chair-throwing antics…

    Love it. Love it.

  3. Pogue finally states the superobvious. This thing doesn’t hold a candle to the nano, and the nano is the biggest selling iPod. So it’s not even a halfassed attack on the iPod line, it’s a halfassed attack on the HIGH END of the iPod line.

    People who buy high end care a lot more about size, looks, and the cool factor of their gadgets… none of which are remotely threatened by the Zune.

  4. It sounds like Microsoft is trying all the tricks to get people to buy this turd.
    Listing artists that aren’t available to there store is really under handed. The more I hear about the wifi feature the less likely it would be useful for anyone. As Poque says the copy protection is draconian to say the least.
    Don’t waste your money on a player and service that limits you in so many ways. The iTunes music store and the iPod have the least amount of DRM allowed I believe and it’s really rare that it ever will get in your face.
    iTunes and the iPod are still the best bang for the buck and now you can plug it into your car as most of the new 2007 model cars offer that feature.
    Sorry there is no Zune player option. Just another reason not to think about buying one.


    All this free negative advertising on this Apple related website has intrigued me to no end.

    I must know how it works, I got to own the thing everyone says here will flop.

    I’m feeling sorry for Microsoft which is only trying as hard as it can against the iPod/iTunes dommination of the industry which hasn’t introduced any innovation in the last few years.


    Think about it, why do we support a small market share operating system and combined hardware/software monopoly like Apple?

    Do we feel empathy for the small company?

    Microsoft in digital music is small, very small. They failed with their “PlaysForSure” model because of the evil Steve Jobs, we need to support the ZUNE now!


    What do you say fellow Mac folks? Is it time for a change to a Zune.
    Hello? Anyone…..
    (disclaimer: This post is a joke obviously)

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.