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23 September 2008

Zune Finally Finding Its (Market)Place

I began my journey with Zune the first week it became available. I understood the problems this might cause and simply crossed my fingers that it would catch on and that upgrades to software and firmware would gradually bring new and exciting things.

Baby Steps
My first clue that things were going to work out well came when I was able to upgrade the firmware on my original 30GB Zune. In a matter of 5 minutes my OS looked exactly like that of the next gen Zunes. There were also upgrades to the Zune Marketplace which added podcasts and podcast management. Also, you can now download videos - including some awesome NBC shows.

Giant Leap For Mankind
Then the unimaginable happened. Last week I upgraded both the firmware on my original Zune and Marketplace software to versions 3.0 and to my surprise they have added some incredible features - taking the Zune from iPod wannabe to a definite competitor.

New Stuff (see full listing here)
Here are just some of the things I've experienced personally:

  1. I can connect to the Marketplace by wireless connection and mark songs for download.
  2. I can listen to the radio and the Zune will tell me what the song is and I can mark it for download the next time I sync.
  3. The Marketplace software has some amazing new stuff (see image above). As you are listening to an album you can see a slide show of hi-res images of the artist. As these images fade in and out words appear on the screen. Things like: artist name, album title, song title, description of artist, number of times you have played the song, number of times the song has been played by everyone, etc.
  4. Another cool feature of the Marketplace is something called the Mixview (see below). When listening to an album you can see other albums by that artist, singles, related artists, users that listen to that album the most (from the Social), and even artists that this artist was influenced by.

In Summary
All I can say is, I stand amazed. First because I'm still using my first gen Zune and getting to do everything a next gen Zune user gets to do. And second, because in a matter of a few years Zune has undergone an incredible transformation and in my opinion stands as one of the leading players in the game.

Up Next?
I know there will be more to come, but here is my request for the next big thing:
Add television shows and movies to the subscription service!
As it stands I pay $14/month for unlimited downloads of music. If I want a television show on my Zune I still have to pay extra for that. And I don't think movies are even available yet. But hopefully this all happens in the near future. I'd probably pay up to $30/month for a subscription service like this - especially if the quality of the video was good enough to watch on my 1680x1050 computer monitor or a 1080p HDTV before sending to my Zune in a smaller format.

Things are looking up for Microsoft. Can't wait to see what happens next.