Sansa Connect
March 6, 2007, 11:25 am
Filed under: CES, Consumer Electronics, electronics, ipod, Music

My most anticipated device of the Spring is the Sansa Connect. I got to try one out at CES in January, and I’ve got to say, I can’t wait for the device to ship late this month. Sandisk has built the usual MP3 playing capabilities that it has been shipping in other Sansa models, but the real showstopper with the Connect is its full Wifi content sharing capability. This isn’t a crippled Zune implementation, but full Wifi to internet, unlimited sharing. The device will play DRM’d and non-DRM’d WMA files, and also has built in controls to access streaming internet radio.

This should be the template for how music players work…there may be a few enhancements needed, but as a complete product, the Sansa Connect is a huge step forward.

Sansa Press Release

finally got some of my photos from CES 2007 up on flickr


Zune vs. the Gen 5 Video iPod
November 27, 2006, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Consumer Electronics, ipod, media, Technology and Gadgets, zune

I’ve now had the pleasure of playing with a new iPod for the past 3 days, which gives me a chance to do a little side by side comparison with my new Zune. Though it is a personal taste comparison only…the iPod is a slick device on par with the best consumer electronics on the market for design and simplicity…the Zune is, well, clunky looking. Then you start looking at specific features…

First, the click wheel is a beautiful thing, and it’s only gotten better since the early versions of the iPod in terms of responsiveness/sensitivity. The Zune’s rocker switch is clumsy and granular by comparison.

Second, the lack of videos on the Zune hits you right away when you look at the collection of video content available on iTunes…that bigger Zune screen isn’t going to be worth very much until the Zune service has any breadth of video selection.

Third, the Zune FM tuner is a nice feature, and one real glaring absence for the iPod.
On the other hand, iPod games are a nice touch, though depending on your entertainment choices, not quite as significant as having FM radio might be.

And what about that nifty sharing feature that’s supposed to be a selling point on the Zune? I’m sure it will come in handy someday…when I find anybody to share with. So far no contact whatsoever in the first two weeks.

Finally, the 80GB storage on the new iPod, when you start downloading movies at 1GB+, the 30GB drives in the Zune and the older iPods starts to look really small. Fortunately for MS, the Zune service doesn’t have anything available to stuff the Zune’s smaller 30GB drive, but that will come… or so they tell us. Still given the price matching on the 30GB units, MS can’t be blamed for delivering less value than the iPod, at least not for storage.

Overall, the Zune’s a nice unit, but the new iPod is slicker and has a tremendous asset in iTunes, which leaves little to be desired from a content available standpoint. Microsoft has got to get its act together quickly on the Zune service if they really want to compete….

Zune it will work…..
November 15, 2006, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Consumer Electronics, ipod, media, Music, Technology and Gadgets, zune

Okay installation and use:

Install started off on a bad foot, hanging a brand new Windows XP machine with a clean Dell OEM install of the OS…followed shortly by the fact that the device, if plugged in while booting the machine, disabled the keyboard. The installation itself went cleanly enough the second time around, though it was interesting that the firmware out of the box didn’t support wifi, and required an immediate patch.

Usability of the Zune software isn’t that bad, except for account management, where figuring out what to do to exercise the free 14 day Zune Pass takes some guess work and poking around…

Documentation in general is really sparse, with most of the printed matter included in the box, including all of the supposed Product Guide, being taken up with legal disclaimer. The quick start guide is the only printed info that is useful, and it doesn’t cover much….

Oh and the whole identity management system for using the Zune software is dependent on Microsoft Live, which failed to locate my existing Live user id in 2 of 4 attempts to login.

One final issue, the use of a 5 way rocker switch (a la your favorite TV remote) is a nice way to avoid Apple’s (and possibly others’) patents, the lack of a continuous scrolling device makes navigation chunky within songs or videos. You can’t move back to a specific point in a track, you jump back or ahead by 10-15 seconds. There may be a fine tuned solution but again, no way to figure that out from the documentation.

Overall, while the device experience is not much different than an iPod, the Zune software and account management is much less user friendly than iTunes, and is complicated and poorly documented. Whole lotta money on marketing and packaging and not enough on software usability and documentation [if the usability was better, the documentation wouldn’t be necessary, but unfortunately for us….]

Zune Mania
November 14, 2006, 7:13 pm
Filed under: Consumer Electronics, Portable media, Technology and Gadgets, zune

Following the advice that I give to my 5 year old every time I’m charged with getting her to eat dinner… “How do you know it tastes funny, you haven’t tried it yet”… And feeling some small guilt for subsidizing the hype machine that is Zune marketing… I bought the Zune today

Okay some positives: nice bright, clear widescreen display, simple navigation UI,….um, okay I’m sure I will think of some more later. Oh yeah, really cool packaging, i.e. the box, not the device.

Not so good? Sterile, some would say ugly, design harkens back to electronics of the 1970’s (retro industrial style thing that I must be missing?) And Brown,…so Spring of 2006….

More later on the limited sharing and file download support, once I get the software running on a PC….