The Extraordinarily Underwhelming Zune

14 Sep ’06

I don’t get it. I return home this evening to a veritable ocean of exclamation marks on Techmeme about the Zune, all breathlessly announcing its launch. (Er, no, not ’til Xmas. Ed: Vista time, or earth-time? Anyone else think this pre-release has been in the can waiting for Jobs’ announcement earlier this week?). I don’t know where to start with this one, so I’ll just run down the features quickly.

A nice sized screen – slightly larger than the iPod. So far, so good.

FM. That’s cool, a radio that’s portable. That’s new. And while radio’s dying, it’s dying slowly, so I’d get some use out of that. For listening to, you know, radio.

And of course, the big buzz feature: wireless, for sharing, and an online site to facilitate sharing as well. Well, not really sharing – at least not in the sense that one could actually share. Rather, sharing in the sense of “hey, I’m not sure, but did you send me a song – I couldn’t really hear it over traffic and now it’s gone.” Pointlessly restricted sharing of self-destructing music. (But honestly, if kids want to share music, won’t they just email the mp3 and give the gift that keeps on giving?) More details on sharing, MS style:

While Zune users can share an unlimited number of tracks, each individual track can only be shared once with any given user. Once shared, it can never be shared again. Also, each shared track is good for only three spins, or three days, whichever comes first, after which it disappears from the user’s device.

And finally, a 30G hard drive. So, essentially, the size of the drive in the iPod I had a few years ago. Or, about enough room for me to store A thru E of my collection. If I’m selective about the Beatles. And leave the Dylan at home.

All of it backed by the well-established MS skill at tapping into the teenage zeitgeist. So you know the site will be hot. Kids especially will love shopping at the Zune Marketplace. (Because kids just love marketplaces). “Designed around the principles of sharing, discovery and community, Zune will create new ways for consumers to connect and share entertainment experiences.” You’ll love it – many focus groups say so – sharing and community are big with the kids today.

What am I missing?

Update: While it’s not clear, and this is based on reading between the lines at the Zune Insider blog, the Zune software will not initially support RSS-delivered podcasts. Users will instead have to manually import the audio files into their player. Ugh. I assume the full implementation will come after MS figures out how to rebrand ‘podcasts’ as something at least Apple neutral.

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