In the discussion
regarding Zune video transcoding
(or lack thereof in this case) there was a comment from first-time poster covert
(I hope I don't scare him away with this!) that I thought was worth discussing in more detail on our front page:"I know it's disappointing to not have DivX support on the Zune itself or the desktop software, but couldn't a third-party program on your desktop encode your DivX files to compatible .WMVs anyway?"
Sure, it's entirely possible - I have a lot of programs that transcode - but the question is, why should I have to do that? The Zune desktop software should deliver the most seamless, hassle-free experience to the end user as possible. That's the whole reason for the Zune, right? Video transcoding is part of that solution - no one wants to think about video transcoding, they just want to be able to play their videos on their device. Period. I watch a lot of video on my Zen Vision:M when I'm travelling, and it can be a real hassle to get it all into the right format. I have to use one program for ripping a DVD to DivX, another program for getting DVR-MS files into WMV format, and sometimes I have to crack open a file in Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0, export it to MPEG, then encode it with Windows Media Encoder to get what I want. It's a hassle from end to end.
DVR-MS files from a Windows Media Center Edition 2005 PC are a particular pain: almost nothing will transcode them properly (or easily). Windows Movie Maker won't open them (the registry hack is unstable for me), and Windows Media Encoder won't either. Windows Media Player 10 will transcode them only if you've sacrificed a chicken and done the proper voodoo dances - I tried getting an short AVI file off my Casio camera onto my Gigabeat S the other day, and WMP10 puked on it with no error (it just sat at 0% for a very long time). Video transcoding causes everyone frustration, and it's really unfortunate that the Zune is actually going to be less helpful in this regard than previous PMC and PlaysForSure devices. Video, especially social/viral video, is becoming increasingly popular with the advent of sites such as YouTube, so I believe Microsoft is missing a great opportunity here. Here's hoping Zune v2 will have an integrated Flash player, direct-to-Internet WiFi access, and a YouTube will create a Zune-optimized portal complete with downloading. I can dream right?