Editorials: Next of Kin

Late last week we got news that Microsoft was resurrecting the KIN branded phones. To be fair, one could argue that they were never dead but that’s not what we’re talking about here. What I want to focus on is the Zune application built inside the KIN devices, and more broadly the way Zune is implemented into different ecosystems. There’s something that we as Zune users need to realize before we choose our next Zune devices. Cleary all Zune devices aren’t created equal.

While certainly one of the most high profile places for the Zune Brand to show up, Zune on XBOX got off to a rocky start. This year we’re able to stream music using our Zune Pass, and use Kinect as a wireless remote. Now we’ve got, options for the Zune Social, Editorial Content, Smart DJ, and artist bios. What’s missing? Mixview, Channels, and any actual connection to the music you have already shown an interest in outside the Zune Music on XBOX app. To me leaving out any connection to your local library or even an area for music the Zune service already knows you’ve downloaded, keeps this from being the standout feature it could be. It also keeps it from being as great a music discovery tool as it could be.

When I heard that Zune was making its way to Windows Phones around the globe this holiday, I had lofty ideas. I dreamed of having all the features that make my Zune HD a better alternative than other offerings. I dreamed of carrying around the world’s best music player in the same package as my phone. Instead what we got was only a fraction of what a Zune can do. True, Zune Pass streaming and downloads are there. Here’s what missing; nearly everything else. Not only are there no Channels, no SmartDJ, no artists bios, but there’s no Zune Social. Yes, a brand that prides itself on music discovery lacks nearly every feature for music discovery made by Zune outside the U.S. To make matters worse Zune HD isn’t sold anywhere else except the U.S. which means millions of people well get; in my humble opinion, a second rate experience.

An even stranger Zune implementation is the KIN devices. Once positioned as the premiere way to enjoy a Zune Pass due to it’s 3G; the newer versions drop this feature entirely. To make matters worse, the only features it gains that Windows Phone doesn’t currently have is artist bios. Again no Smart DJ, no Zune Social.

I’m sure Microsoft is working fast and hard to bring these features to Windows Phone, and XBOX. I understand that these things were probably left out due to time constraints. Consumers however won’t understand it. One reason we cheered the arrival of the Zune brand on other Microsoft devices, was the amount of exposure it might get by being on these platforms could breathe new life into the ecosystem. This is a great thing. What isn’t great is using a spread sheet to explain to users what features are and aren’t on each device that runs a form of Zune. Back in February Joe Belfoire coined the phrase “Every Windows Phone is a Zune.” With all due respect I completely disagree. Sure every Windows Phone can play Zune Pass music, but without the signature experiences that make Zune, unique, then it really isn’t a Zune, and the same thing goes for every device running Zune.

Clarification In fact Windows Phone does have artist bios, however it does not feature related artists.

4 Comments on “Editorials: Next of Kin”

  1. Couldn’t agree more, the thing about Zune is you need to keep the things that make it unique and vibrant, alive and thriving; not sluggishly appearing at times… I didn’t realize that the Windows Phone 7 didn’t have bios that makes me really disheartened at the phone… Although it’s still great why not put it in there?

  2. This is why i personally cant go with the “all in one” theory. Not yet anyways. I enjoy every feature on my zune hd, including the 64 gigs which i keep maxed out.

  3. There are artist bios. The smartDJ isn’t included because they didn’t have time. They had an entire OS to build in a year. Microsoft’s release schedule for windows desktop is two years. And they already start development on the next os even when the one their currently on is in beta. They will have all these features eventually, just like everything else, give it time and it will come. The feature I miss most from my zune 80 and 120 is the customizable background. Not having that feature when now the iPhone and the iPod touch have it is just not smart. This needs to be implemented ASAP, as well as copy & paste and multi tasking. What they don’t have in zune is the ability to view artist pix, zune social, and an eq. This needs to be fixed as well. The one good thing that microsoft did with wp7 is open up the marketplace to devs. that means 3000 vs. 20-30 on the zune hd.

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