Apple introduces iPod with WiFi and Touchscreen
September 5, 2007, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Apple, iPhone, ipod, Microsoft, mp3 player, Nano, Sandisk, Sansa, zune

In the constant battle to keep the iPod ahead of the mp3 player clones, Apple today introduced new models of its iPod and Nano, incorporating new technologies such as WiFi access (much like Sandisk’s Sansa Connect and Microsoft’s Zune) and a touch screen based upon the same technology employed in the iPhone. Having the coolest new technology incorporated into the iPod is essential to Apple’s product strategy, even its corporate aura. With Microsoft working on its second generation Zune player, and countless competitors cranking out cheap mp3-playing glorified storage devices in a variety of innovative packages and economic ranges, Apple no longer has an advantage in distribution or for that matter innovation. Apple hasn’t become the safe, boring alternative yet, and that means that the iPod brand is not yet in decline,… today’s announcement doesn’t restore it lost technological lead, but it does maintain the spectacular marketing lead that Steve Jobs has built.

Read more at Bloomberg

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….

Happy Zune Day
November 14, 2006, 10:42 am
Filed under: ipod, media, Music, podcasting, Portable media, zune

On the plus side, competition is healthy for any industry. On the minus side, I’m not sure I want to be within 30 feet of the people I am sharing music with.

“Welcome to the Social! Get nice and friendly, ’cause you’re going to have to stand around real close to share anything. Oh and don’t talk to those other wifi devices all around you…they’re scary”

“Oh and a dollar of your money is going to Universal for music you may not listen to because you might be a lying, thieving pirate, but hey… Welcome to the Social!”