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.]

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24 Comments

  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.

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