Are you sure you want that new Zune HD?

A former Sling Media colleague and current blogging ally picked up the Zune HD at launch, as that’s how us gadget fiends roll.

I’ve been tracking Microsoft’s hardware refresh as well, but given the capabilities of current flagship smartphones, I just don’t have a place (or pocket) in my life for a portable media player (PMP), web tablet, or gaming device that doesn’t integrate ‘cellular’ connectivity. I also find fault with Microsoft’s ability to more tightly integrate the Zune experience throughout their product lineup – Windows Media Center, Xbox 360, and Windows Mobile. A missed opportunity for sure.

“Right now our product roadmaps didn’t line up perfectly” is how MS describes the current state of affairs. Contrast that with Apple’s more harmonious ecosystem. However, whether or not Zunes are sold out, post-launch improvements are coming. And Microsoft’s new hardware platform is beautiful – both the OLED screen and physical design. In fact, I prefer its looks over the iPod Touch and iPhone (although I’d appreciate physical volume controls). But, according to my pal,

Regrettably, this thing isn’t as user friendly as any iPod I’ve ever used. On an iPod, I was adding movies immediately but with the Zune HD they need to sync up. All of my content was available by default in iTunes where I wanted it, but here it’s where Microsoft thinks you store things (My Documents/My Movies) rather than where I store things. So I have to go through the settings and add locations.

Then there’s the ads… Initially, he had a difficult time getting apps loaded onto the Zune HD when I inquired about the ad chatter:

If I can get this thing to sync up any games I’ll get right on that. When I download it goes to 100% and then tosses up an error that says the location has changed, been deleted, been moved, been ostracized, been excommunicated or is, otherwise, simply unavailable. Oh, it’s available.

Eventually he succeeded and I cringed at the pre-app advertising. In the video above, you can see both a static Zune Pass banner ad or a Kia Soul video commercial pop up prior to gameplay.

Un-flippin’-believable. I can see this as being annoying. But if the revenue from those ads goes to the developer and not Microsoft, I’m perfectly okay with this. It would encourage a developer to make a game free at the get-go and to make a game that encourages people to come back.

Therein lies the problem. These are not third party or independently developed games, offsetting company-incurred dev costs via a legitimate monetization route. These are Microsoft-produced (or contracted) apps. It’s sorta like a commercial coming up each time one launches the freebie Apple Remote on an iPod Touch. That wouldn’t fly. Ad-supported entertainment is an American tradition, starting way back in the Golden Age of Radio and currently funding nearly every informational web site. But it’s just chintzy for a behemoth like Microsoft to take this approach, especially as the underdog in this space. My suggestion: Provide the ad-serving platform, but leave the commercial interruption to the third party developers. And, for heaven’s sake, give your customers an option to purchase an ad-free edition. It seems to be working out OK on Apple’s competing platform.

But it’s not all bad news. Despite these annoyances, he seems pleased with the Zune HD and sees it replacing the functionality of multiple devices he previously (?) traveled with. And providing new features, like HD Radio. So we’ll give him some time to live with it a bit longer before rendering a final verdict.

7 thoughts on “Are you sure you want that new Zune HD?”

  1. Hey if you want the Zune software to find movies anywhere on your system just put root path to the content into the settings. I have video scattered all over the place on my HD. I set the option to include d:documents and settings. The Zune sofware scanned down the directory and my videos showed up in their software. Microsoft is not forcing anyone to use any directory you are just dealing with the default directory after the install.

    Its always worked this way since the 3.0 software came out. But MS could have made it a bit easier to ask do you want to scan for content on the HD. Oh well.

  2. Are you serious? How stupid is the guy that is using the Zune? It’s about as straightforward as you can get, you see, there is this thing called “settings”…(any idiot, aside from you colleague, would know to start there).

    About the advertising, well, yes, agreed. Big Failure. It’s annoying, but not enough to make me take it back to the store. I’m sure there will be a hack soon enough to delete those altogether. Until then, endure or don’t play. And from what I’ve read, there are already at least 2 third party apps in the making so I don’t see this as a major concern.

  3. First off, dissenting opinions are welcome. Name calling is not. Future comments like that will be flagged as spam and removed. We will debate respectfully or not at all.

    Regarding the device… My pal didn’t say the file structure is complex, this was merely one point amongst many he made to me how the Zune HD out of box experience compares to the iPod Touch, the obvious competitor in this market.

  4. Would you rather have ads preceding free apps, or be overcharged by Apple for mediocre iPods…note that Apple only dropped their price on the iPod (32gb) to $299 (from $399) in response to Micorsoft’s aggressive Zune pricing.

  5. Paul Thurrott advises on his Windows Weekly podcast that Zune is the new Microsoft brand that will be used across the Zune device, the Xbox later this winter and on the PC, eventually supplanting Windows Media Player. So, you can expect a lot more from the brand in the next year.

    Also, he advises, that Microsoft finally moved many of its desparate units, the WMP, mobile, Xbox and Zune teams into the same facility so they will start working more tightly together and integrating their product further.

    Check out the latest Windows Weekly podcast for more details:

    They spend the first 10 minutes talking about the Zune HD and the Zune brand generally. The prior WW podcast also discusses the Zune brand in some detail, if I recall correctly:


  6. One of the reasons I moved to a Zune last year was disgust with iTunes. Zune software isn’t perfect, but I’ve found it less frustrating. I’d been using ipods since the Classic version.

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