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All posts tagged "ipod"

Friday, March 30, 2007

Five Ways to Make the Zune a Success

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 12:00 PM


"Five months after its introduction, industry experts give Microsoft Corp.'s Zune media player barely passing grades in terms of its marketplace success while Microsoft insists the device is on course... So far, Microsoft has failed in one of their market goals -- to take market share from Apple Inc.'s iPods, Rubin and Chen agreed. Rather, it has taken sales away from smaller vendors, most notably Creative Labs, which previously was in second place behind Apple... To put the hurt on iPod, Microsoft must deal with some serious issues, the analysts agreed. Here are five steps they said Microsoft must take to get itself into the game."

An interesting article over at Computerworld listing five thing that Microsoft should do if they want to ensure the Zune's success. I won't list the five things here (you'll have to read the article ;-) ), but I agree with every one or them (though I think the last one should really be two different items). What things do you think Microsoft needs to do with the Zune in order to make it truly competitive? Personally I think if they just made sure the Zune could do everything the iPod does that would be a giant step in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Is a Zune to iPod Converter Cable In Our Future?

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Zune Accessories" @ 08:06 PM


"A common complaint levelled at Microsoft’s Zune is the relative scarcity of aftermarket accessories like speaker-docks and charging cables compared to the better-established iPod. Obviously it would’ve been too much to hope that Microsoft and Apple could’ve worked together for the good of the consumer, so we’ll have to rely on enterprising enthusiasts instead. The guys and gals over at Zuney.net have set themselves the goal of not only producing a pin-out diagram for the Zune’s connector, but constructing a Zune to iPod cable too."

While this project is still in its early stages, it is an interesting concept. A small converter cable that would allow you to use iPod accessories with your Zune could be convenient. I would think that such a device would be most beneficial to someone that previously owned an iPod and accessories and is wishing to migrate to a Zune, more so than someone looking to purchase new accessories. Obviously the selection of Zune accessories doesn't come close to that of the iPod, personally I can't think of any particular accessory available for an iPod that I don't have an available option for my Zune. Is there any particular iPod accessory that you would use such a converter for?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

iPods Get Cover Flow, My Zune Gently Weeps

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 01:15 PM


We don't post about the competition to the Zune very often, but every now and then if we see a feature on another digital media player that we'd like to see on the Zune, we'll talk about it.

There's a video floating around the Web showing an iPod displaying a new eye-popping feature: Cover Flow. iTunes on the desktop has it, and while it's pretty cool looking, they way they implemented it leaves a lot to be desired (most due to the position of it in iTunes, I find it awkward and bolted-on). The iPod implementation, however, fills the screen and looks great (assuming that this is real and not an elaborate and amazingly well done fake). Check it out:

No matter which side of the iPod love/hate fence you fall on, there's no denying that the effect shown is just damn cool. If you're a visual person like I am, that often picks music to listen to based on the album art, this is a very useful way to move through your music. I'm not sure that I buy the usefulness of the scroll-wheel here, but I suppose it's an acquired taste.

How does the Zune measure up? I'm sad to say not all that well. Before this iPod update, the Zune had a more impressive album art story, if only marginally: the iPod was limited to a small cover that sort of floated in the middle of the screen with a big white border. Nothing impressive there. The Zune, on the other hand, used the album art to greater effect, filling the whole screen with it. The dark secret we all learned when we got our Zune is that even if you have fantastic, high-quality album art inside your audio files, the Zune will ignore it and instead serve up the highly-compressed, 240 x 240 JPEGs that can look really bad. I cringe whenever I look at album art on my Zune - the quality just isn't there.

Now that the iPod is getting the Cover Flow feature, the Zune is again on the defensive. iTunes uses nice quality 600 x 600 images for album art now, and I'm willing to bet they keep the resolution the same on the iPod, use nice bicubic scaling, and don't re-save it and crush the quality. Their album art is going to look good, and the Zune's album art...not so much.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

O'Reilly: Half a Dozen Lessons Apple Should Take From the Zune

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 09:00 AM


"Yeah, yeah. The Zune may be a miserable failure according to some, but there are definitely some positive points about the Zune that Apple should take note of and consider emulating. Here is my list of six lessons Apple might consider learning from the Zune and implementing in their iPod line."

Some of Erica Sadun's points are valid. Fingerprint and scratch-resistant? That's a big one. One thing I love about the Zune is its hardiness, though to Apple's credit, the current generation iPod nano and iPod shuffle deserve some of the limelight because they do not share the same scratch-happy characteristics of the hard disk-based iPods. And what about the not-so-valid points? All the chatter about improved menus and a bigger screen had merit prior to the start of the new year, though with Apple's iPhone set to hit us in a few months time, said points are effectively nullified.

Can you think of any to add to Erica's list?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

PC World Tests and Compares Leading Portable Media Players

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Zune Talk" @ 09:44 AM


"With video features, new ways to connect to music services, and more, the latest audio players do a lot more than just play MP3s. Our lab tests of 21 models reveal today's best buys... We point out differences in features and performance to help you weigh which is the right player for you."

PCWorld offers up a fairly extensive comparison, including audio quality tests, for many of today's leading digital media players. They group the players into three categories: flash, hard-drive, and large-screen video players. This is one of the more extensive comparisons I've seen, even if they do have some items just plain wrong. (Apparently you can't connect Zune via USB.) :) According to PC World's audio tests, Zune does slightly nudge out iPod in audio quality, receiving a "superior" ranking. Zune's lowest mark was in the features category, receiving only a "fair" mark, bringing Zune in at fifth overall behind the 30 GB iPod, Zen VisionM, Gigabeat S30, and 80 GB iPod, respectively. I do take issue with their statement that none of the other players can match the elegance of iPods user interface. On the contrary, having used iPods for some time, and now using a Zune, I think Zune's interface is much more elegant than iPod's.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Universal Could Take a Bite Out of Apple

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 06:00 AM


"Other recording companies have yet to follow Universal's hard-line lead, particularly in suing online video and social networking sites. They appear happy to let Morris carry the fight through lawsuits and other measures. In his tussle with YouTube, Morris called the site a hub for pirated music videos and negotiated a licensing deal that landed Universal and other labels small stakes in the company just before it was acquired by Google for $1.76 billion US last year. Morris has already suggested, albeit guardedly, that his next target will be iPod-maker and No. 1 online music retailer Apple Inc. With Apple's licensing deal to sell Universal music on iTunes set to expire in May, Morris said, "there might be other ways to get paid." Last fall, Morris threatened not to license Universal music to Microsoft just days before it was scheduled to launch its own online music store and its Zune digital music player. In response, the software company coughed up a royalty of just over a dollar for every Zune sold and paid music fees."

Whether you like it or not (chances are, you don't), Universal is on a mission to milk everything for what it's worth. Zune, of course, fell victim to the label's strong-arm tactics late last year, and come May, the iPod could be next. And beyond? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Zune Sucks... 'Cause Why?

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 09:00 AM


"Bottom line Winner? iPod ....not so much for the device itself as the Zune is nicer from a screen standpoint but because content and software is king. David Shackelford did note that the other content difference is the "rent" factor of content that iTunes doesn't have. But the Zune size wise isn't the exercise device that Vlad said it would be... I think I'll still need free weights to bulk up in the biceps."

Yet another person tries the Zune (this time a Microsoft MVP) and hates it for all the wrong reasons. Seriously, it's too early to nail the Zune marketplace for lacking content. It will take time to build it. Now, if they still have no content a year from now, go ahead an zing 'em for it. And no engraving option? Woah, that must mean the player sucks. Cultural bonding through earphone color? You don't like the Zune because it didn't come with white earphones? Please. If you don't like the Zune, you don't like it. It's OK. Just don't give me rationalizations and BS reasons please.

Tags: ipod, mvp

NYT Attacks DRM

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 05:15 AM


"Even if you are ready to pledge a lifetime commitment to the iPod as your only brand of portable music player or to the iPhone as your only cellphone once it is released, you may find that FairPlay copy protection will, sooner or later, cause you grief. You are always going to have to buy Apple stuff. Forever and ever. Because your iTunes will not play on anyone else’s hardware. Unlike Apple, Microsoft has been willing to license its copy-protection software to third-party hardware vendors. But copy protection is copy protection: a headache only for the law-abiding. Microsoft used to promote its PlaysForSure copy-protection standard, but there must have been some difficulty with the “for sure” because the company has dropped it in favor of an entirely new copy-protection standard for its new Zune player, which, incidentally, is incompatible with the old one."

Randall Stross at The New York Times has written a two-page article that attacks DRM - in particular, that of closed ecosystems such as the iPod/iPhone and Zune. Have a read through it and tell us whether you agree or disagree.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Apple's iPhone: Touch Screen Is In

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 08:15 PM


"iPhone is a widescreen iPod with touch controls that lets you enjoy all your content — including music, audiobooks, videos, TV shows, and movies — on a beautiful 3.5-inch widescreen display. It also lets you sync your content from the iTunes library on your PC or Mac. And then you can access it all with just the touch of a finger."

Summarizing the iPhone is no easy feat. There's a huge amount of information, pictures, and QuickTime demonstrations to digest, so I recommend you visit the iPhone page when you have a spare moment. But phone and data capabilities aside, the iPhone is an iPod and it has a new UI and new capabilities that make it unlike any iPod that has ever been released. Let's break it down. It handles music, pictures, and video. It supports large album art on a 3.5" Multi-Touch 320 x 480 display (which supports multi-finger gestures), Cover Flow browsing, automatic switching between portrait and landscape modes, and it has 4GB or 8GB built-in, along with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There are definitely features here that no longer make the Zune UI as unique as it once was, but there are also some features it's missing, which gives the Zune a slight edge. Whichever way you look at it, it's healthy competition, and it'll be interesting to see what both Apple and Microsoft can conjure in the months and years ahead.

Tags: apple, ipod, iphone

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Zune's 2% (Not 9%) Market Share

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 11:00 AM


"When all the retail sources were polled and the data finely analyzed, Microsoft's fledgeling digital media player garnered a 9 percent unit share of the hard disk drive (HDD) segment -- or just shy of 2 percent of the overall U.S. market -- according to November data from NPD Group. That's a significant correction from an initial sales surge and a more selective data set that awarded Zune a staggering 9 percent share during its first week on the market. In speaking to AppleInsider, NPD analyst Steve Baker said the most recent share data was compiled from a more comprehensive list of retail sources that factored in iPod sales at Apple's own stores, and is therefore more representative of the Microsoft player's overall market share. Figures released by the firm immediately following Zune's launch in mid-November were culled from aggregate sales data coming only from the nation's top electronics dealers, which did not include Apple retail stores."

So it appears that Zune didn't quite do as well as first thought. The initial report of 9% of the market share was quickly corrected to 2%, after factoring in iPod sales at Apple's own stores and resellers. But when you're looking at a first-generation device entering a market that's devoured by the iPod, coupled with the occasional odd bit of marketing, is 2% really that surprising?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Oshkosh West Digs the Zune

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 08:00 AM


"All things considered, the Zune is a magnificent start to Microsoft’s efforts in the portable media player market. With a long battery life of 14 hours on only a three hour charge, the Zune could outlast the iPod in the ever-changing field of portable music dominance. As great as the iPod is at fitting in and providing the status symbol many desire from their media device, the Zune is a phenomenal choice for those wishing to find a truly unique experience without submitting to the dictates of popular culture."

I find it interesting that he recommends the Zune to anyone who's not already an iPod fanboy. It's wierd that someone would choose a Zune just because it isn't an iPod. Not quite as weird as a Microsoft device being labelled counter-culture. ;-) Granted, I belong to the 'as long as it doesn't have an Apple logo on it' club, but I didn't buy a Zune just to stick it to Apple. I bought one because I believe that it has great potential and I want MS to know that people like me want them to keep doing what they're doing. What about you? What was the main reason you decided on the Zune?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

How The Zune Fits In

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Zune Talk" @ 09:24 AM


"What does the future hold for Apple's iPod? Will Microsoft's Zune strike a chord with iPod users? Will the Mac continue to be part of Apple's core business? I recently put these questions to tech guru Bob Cringely, employee No. 12 at Apple, and part of the team that developed the desktop trash-can icon. Cringely is currently the host of the PBS online television show Nerd TV and the author of Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition and Still Can't Get a Date."

This article is from the financial site Motley Fool, so it takes a different approach toward answering the question regarding why Microsoft entered into the game with the Zune. It also stakes a stab and why Apple will (not a question of "if" according to Cringely) stop making iPods completely. I tend to disagree - Apple is all about controlling every aspect of their platform, from end to end, and for them to give that up and let another company make iPods...it's not going to happen. At least, not while Steve Jobs is alive.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Are You Ready To Rumble?

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Zune Talk" @ 08:33 AM


CNET TV pits Zune head to head against iPod in this heavyweight championship prizefight. You can see it here: Part1 and Part2. And the winner is? iPod, by a slim margin. No surprises there, it is a close fight. These videos do a nice job of comparing the two devices and each unit's strengths and weaknesses.

Tags: ipod, review, cnet

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Zune a Better Fit for Some

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Zune Talk" @ 11:00 PM


"I have been checking out the Zune and the iPod with video in direct comparison and have to say I prefer the Zune for my usage. Keep in mind a few things that help make the Zune more attractive for me that may not be applicable to others."

ZDNet's Matthew Miller has been using a Zune for the past three weeks. What has he learned in those three weeks? Zune may not have lived up to all the pre-release hype, but you know what, it's not a bad device at all. And for some people, including Miller, the Zune is a better fit than the iPod. Some of Miller's reasoning’s for giving the nod to Zune include the larger screen for more enjoyable video viewing and the subscription service to supplement his meager music collection. Check out his article for more thoughts on his Zune experience. Personally, owning both a video iPod and Zune, the Zune is a better device for me and my uses. I still have need of a smaller, flash based device, so my Nano will still compliment my Zune for now. The only feature currently missing for me is built-in podcast support. How about you? Does the Zune meet your portable media player needs, or are some improvements needed before you take the plunge?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Zune Appealing to Upgrade Market

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Hardware" @ 09:00 AM


"Microsoft Corp. may have an opening with its recently launched Zune digital music player to gain market share against the iPod, as a Reuters survey showed that among consumers expressing interest in the Zune 35 percent of them were upgrading from an existing player. Microsoft, the world's No. 1 software company, two weeks ago began selling the Zune, which analysts have said is Microsoft's most serious effort yet to compete with Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, the best-selling player by far... According to the Reuters survey, which was conducted over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Apple remained the leader by a large margin, with about 70 percent of respondents answering unprompted that they would likely buy an iPod. When given a list of MP3 players from which to choose, 80 percent of respondents chose the iPod. Some 7 percent of those given a list of players that also included Microsoft's player, picked Zune. Among those expressing a preference for the Zune player, some 35 percent were upgrading from an existing player while 18 percent of those who voiced an interest in the iPod were upgrading."

Hmmm... So, based on this data, we can assume that people who own iPods either don't want to own one again or are satisfied with their current unit and don't see the need to upgrade. Interesting.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Zune: So Close, Yet So Far

Posted by Damion Chaplin in "Zune Talk" @ 10:00 AM


"For two days, Zune was in the top-10 products sold through Amazon and made it as high as number 2. On day three, it dropped like a rock. The first two days showed the potential the right product could have. The third showed this was a swing and a miss... Microsoft gets software and they are learning about services but Apple is the leading expert is hardware and the MP3 player market is clearly a hardware market now. Much like Apple didn't understand the power of software in the 80s Microsoft doesn't seem to grasp the importance of hardware design in the 2000s and that is very telling in this most recent battle. Much like what happened when Microsoft took on Sony with the Xbox, the Microsoft team had to really have a passion for hardware and that simply wasn't the case with Zune."

I think Rob Enderle has a point, but I think people are, in general, taking this whole thing far too seriously. Everyone built up their own expectations, and now are blaming Microsoft for not fulfilling them. Sure, the Zune is lacking in certain areas, but so is the iPod. And every other gadget you carry. The perfect Pocket PC? Camera? Phone? PMP? Ain't no such beast. Maybe Zune was a little over-hyped for what the final product turned out to be, but the hype was far less than the endless fluorescent assault I get from the iPod camp everyday. ;-) It's a first-gen product folks. Even the first-gen iPod was a dud. MS has a long-term plan for the Zune, and it's a few years too early to call it a swing and a miss.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Zune Getting a Bad Rap?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 03:00 AM


"The Microsoft Zune doesn't let you use the Creative Commons license or play stuff from the iTunes store, the pricing system for purchasing music by the song is a little weird, and its chassis isn't quite as tough as I'd thought initially. But after using the Zune for two weeks and a day and being pretty satisfied with its design, features, and performance, I can't believe some of the stuff I'm reading about it. People really seem to have a problem with this thing -- especially the brown model."

Wired makes a good point about the Zune. Despite all of its shortcomings (and I admit that there are a lot of them), it isn't as bad as some people make it out to be. There's no doubt that it's playing a game of catch-up and it has a long way to go before it eats into Apple's marketshare, but the iPod needs a few tweaks here and there if it's to stay solid in the long run. Both devices aren't perfect. It's a battlefield out there, and may the best one win.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Universal Gets Greedy

Posted by Darius Wey in "Zune Talk" @ 07:00 PM


"Universal Music Group Chief Executive Doug Morris said on Tuesday he may try to fashion an iPod royalty fee with Apple Computer Inc. in the next round of negotiations in early 2007. Universal, the world's largest music company, owned by French media giant Vivendi, was the first major record label to strike an agreement with Microsoft Corp. to receive a fee for every Zune digital media player sold."

Universal's power drive doesn't end at Zune. The iPod could be its next target in a few months time, and quite frankly, I don't think it'll end there. What's next, Universal? Accessories?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Not a Fair Fight

Posted by Aaron Roma in "Thoughts Media Off Topic" @ 08:00 AM


"I love Apple Computer's video iPods, but they have their annoyances... Apple is surely mulling whether to remedy some, if not all, these limitations, and now it has a fresh incentive to do so: Microsoft's new Zune player. I've been playing with the music, picture and video player for the past week, and I can't recommend it. The $250 Zune has too many drawbacks compared to a video iPod with the same price and 30-gigabyte storage capacity. But the Zune does offer a few advantages over iPods."

Twin Cities reporter Julio Ojeda-Zapata weighs in on the iPod vs. Zune fight. All though overall, his opinion is that the iPod wins hands down, he does a nice job of pointing out some of the iPod's frustrations and the Zune's strong points. (He even tried the "key" test on his loaner Zune, and was quite pleased with the hardware's durability. I'm not brave enough to try that!) One of the negatives that are pointed out in this article, amongst others, is the Zune Marketplace is currently limited to 2 million tracks, compared to 3.5 million on iTunes Store. Yes, Zune Marketplace does have some ground to make up. Most of these articles never mention that when iTunes Store first launched, it did so with a paltry 200,000 tracks, and only reach 1 million tracks some 16 months into existence. Zune appears to have a nice springboard launching with 2 million. As long as they continue to add content, this shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I’ve yet to have an issue find a song I was looking for on either service. Maybe I’m just too main stream!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Can We Expect New Ads?

Posted by Darius Wey in "Thoughts Media Off Topic" @ 11:30 PM


You've all seen the "Get a Mac" ads - you know, the ones which make PC seem like the kind of guy you want to hang out with (he's cool and knows a joke or two), over Mac who seems like the boring type (he takes things too seriously). When do you think Apple will introduce "Get an iPod" ads? We do need John Hodgman to make Zune a world of fun.

Tags: zune, microsoft, apple, ipod, ad

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