New Zune announced, still no web browser


Microsoft has announced the updated version of the Zune.  It's sleeker than before, and can sync with your computer wirelessly via WiFi.  However, it still lacks the feature most commonly associated with Wi-Fi: web browsing.  Microsoft should create a web browser for the Zune that rivals Safari on the iPhone and iPod touch, especially given than many people are underwhelmed with the iPod touch's capacity.  The lack of a touchscreen might be an issue for the Zune, but the new Zune Pad (or "squircle") could work like a trackpad for navigating web sites.

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Zune for Windows Mobile


The iPhone is set for release on June 29th, and it will probably enjoy a huge amount of press attention.  If Microsoft is working on a version of the Zune player software for Windows Mobile, they should try to release it on the same day or the day before.  If done well, Zune for Windows Mobile would give anyone with a Windows Mobile smart phone or PDA a great media player experience.  And if available as a free download, it would be a great way for Microsoft to ingratiate itself with Windows Mobile smart phone users, especially those who might consider buying a iPhone.  By releasing the download with the iPhone launch, Microsoft could potentially piggyback on the iPhone's press and enjoy a great deal of coverage.  Stories on the iPhone could easily mention: "Apple iPhone is on sale today for $499.  But if you already have a phone that runs Windows Mobile, Microsoft has a free download of its Zune music player for you."

Microsoft, Zune, and hardware partners

Even with all my installation problems, I'd still argue that after iPod/iTunes, the Zune and Zune Software has made the greatest contribution to the digital audio player landscape.  While Zunes may not be flying off the shelf now, Microsoft is known for slow and steady improvement, and I wouldn't be surprised if within a few years the Zune is healthy competition for the iPod.  As I discussed in my entry about Microsoft's strategy, Microsoft likes to create platforms but let hardware companies sell the actual devices.  With the Zune, Microsoft wisely made the player, software and online store itself, in a uncharacteristically Apple-like move.  However Microsoft could eventually do something Apple never would: let other hardware companies make devices that are compatible with the Zune platform. When and if the Zune establishes itself in the market and in the hearts of consumers, Microsoft should seriously consider allowing other hardware companies make Zune compatible devices.

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Zune Finally Installed!


Woohoo, I was finally able to install the Zune Software! I've played around with the app just a tad, and so far I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It's clean, snappy and attractive. Read for a short rundown of the installation problems, and some quick ideas of how the installer might be able to avoid this problem in the future.

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Zune Software Installer Needs Improvement


I was in the middle of writing an entry about the Zune, when it occurred to me that the iPod attracts so much attention, it seems hardly anyone realized that the real competition isn't the iPod, it's iTunes.  After all, without iTunes the iPod is just sleek paperweight.  I thought if anyone wouldn't overlook the importance of making a great music jukebox and music store, it would be Microsoft with all it's emphasis on software.  So I began downloading the Zune software to check out how it compared to iTunes.  The first thing the installer does is check for updates.  Huh?  I just downloaded it, how could there be updates?  Somehow though, there are, and it has to download them.  This on top of the time I spent downloading the installer.  Finally it finishes with the updates, and I get this lovely "Installation Error" message above.  Wow.  There's a link on the screen so I click it which instructs me to dive into Windows Event Viewer to try to figure out what happened.  Double Wow.  This is where the average person would just give up.  I've been using Windows since forever, installed countless applications, and this is the first time I've had to look in Windows Event Viewer to troubleshoot an installation.  Also I've used every version of iTunes since version 4, and I've never had any installation problems.  Now, I don't own a Zune, I just wanted to try out the program, which you'd think would be something Microsoft would want to encourage.  But this experience has been totally disappointing and frustrating.  I even found myself getting annoyed at the language on the help page:

Use the information in the Date and Time columns to locate the events that were logged for MsiInstaller during the time that you could not complete the Zune software installation.

Are you kidding me?  When "I" could not complete the installation?!  It's the Zune installer that couldn't complete the installation, and somehow I'm getting blamed.  The copy should read more like "during the time when the Zune software installation failed."  Microsoft really needs to work on Zune software installation experience and try to keep from blaming users for their software problems in help documentation.  I'm going to work on installing it again tomorrow, even though it really doesn't deserve another chance.

Zune Filling Stations

A recent article on the Register indicates that Microsoft may be working on Zune Filling Stations that will allow Zune owners to wirelessly download music to their Zune for free.  This concept is pretty similar to the idea I wrote about shortly after the Zune launched.  I'm eager to see how they actually implement this concept. If done well, this could be a very good thing for the Zune.

Microsoft wants Wi-Fi 'filling stations' for Zune II (The Register via Gizmodo)

10 Product Design Failures of the Zune, and 10 product design lessons

First let me disclose that I’m a happy iPod owner, and I’ve never touched a Zune, so if either of those facts are a problem for you just stop reading and continue with your day. My main reason for writing this is that it annoys me to no end when companies release lousy products, and it infuriates me when the company has absolutely no excuse. The Zune is lame, and it’s created by Microsoft, one of the richest companies in the world with some of the best minds in the world. Building a portable audio player isn’t rocket science, but it does take, for lack of a better word, empathy and some understanding of customer’s values. With the Zune, Microsoft has demonstrated that it has neither.

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Zune Sharing Stations


Microsoft is heavily pushing Zune's wireless song sharing capabilities, with the tagline "Welcome to the Social." But until tons of people buy a Zune, "the Social" is going to be pretty lonely, which I think is actually the opposite of social. Microsoft would be wise to address this problem head-on by setting up Zune sharing stations that would allow users to connect to virtual (or actual) Zunes with tens of thousands of songs. Best of all, such a sharing station would also bring Zune owners together. The stations could be in malls or stores, and could have the Zune, Zune Accessories and staff that could give demos and answer questions. Plus everyone would love the free music, even if it's only good for 3 plays or whatever. Also, it would be really cool if the names of the Zunes at the sharing stations were the development team of the Zune and reflected each of their music tastes. Such a gimmick would be a great way to foster a "cult of Zune." Ok, I figured out what they could call the sharing stations: Zune Zones. Durr...

Good ideas, gone lame: Zune's wireless

The Zune, Microsoft's answer to the iPod, has built-in wireless, a feature often dreamed of for the iPod. However, for now, Zune's wireless can only be used to share music with other Zunes. David Pogue sums up this problem perfectly:

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. Source

As if that wasn't bad enough, Microsoft has further crippled this feature by imposing Draconian playback limitations on songs transferred from Zune to Zune; the song is only good for 3 days or 3 plays (which ever comes first). Maybe if the limit were more like 10 days or plays, the restriction wouldn't be hopelessly frustrating. But what's really so surprising about Zune's wireless, is that it could be used for a number of other things that would not suffer from the "First Guy With a Telephone" dilemma. For instance, purchasing music over the internet, sharing music over the web, internet radio, wireless syncing, wireless connectivity to the XBOX 360, or wirelessly connecting to speakers.

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