A few weeks ago I did a show with Ziff Davis Media blogger Mary Jo Foley about the future of Zune and how she liked older generation devices. Numbers demand that a lot of you have already listened however if you haven’t take a listen here. I won’t rehash the entire podcast here for you, (after all I would rather you listen to my nice phone voice) that being said we have received an unprecedented amount of complaints because of opinions either I or Mary Jo had about past generation Zunes. In the interest of full disclosure I called the Zune 30 a brick during that show, and I still believe so now, however whether I like Zune or not isn’t the subject of debate, ZuneSpring itself is a testament to that. What is up for debate is some of the oversights I personally feel that the Zune team has made. In short, if you don’t like my message change the channel.

 

How can Marketing be so bad?
I’m a Law major, and as you might expect it’s not clear to me how popular firms like The Martin Agency (Creators of such great creations as the Geico Cavemen & Gecko) grab the attention of the mainstream audience. What is clear to me is that apparently the person in charge of commercial concepts for Zune doesn’t know either. Not having any commercials hyping the launch of the ZuneHD is something I can overlook. After all the real holiday season doesn’t begin for a few more months, why waste valuable cash? However the commercials we have seen come out of the team in the past haven’t been the at the top of any advertising award nominations or YouTube playlist for one simple reason. Normal people don’t get them. The Common Ad would have been great except that people don’t get excited about software. How many times have you scene iTunes on an Apple ad? Software may be what makes that magic happens but thinking the masses will get excited about something they can’t hold in their hands is like someone assuming that average people will get excited about how a car’s engine looks instead of it’s body style. By no means should software be considered anything less than the glue that holds a device together, but people need something they can relate to and the ZuneHD is just that, put the thing in an ad already!

Oh and there was Wes! The Zune Pass is arguably the best part about the platform. Unlimited Music for 14.99 is a simple enough concept, why would you send some clown in a suite from The Apprentice Season 2 to make an argument to people who browse gadget and tech related websites that Zune Pass is a better alternative then the one their using? The Zune and it’s software are the best in class, and it’s about time you told people about it in a way they can understand.

 

You Make it You or Do You?
One of the Zune’s tag-lines since 2007 has been you make it you, and as far as i’m concerned essential to that is the ability to customize the look and feel of the Zune device. Sure there’s Zune Originals with it’s engraving and all that but not having the ability to use your own wallpaper on the device you purchased is strange. What makes it more strange is the audacity to do it knowing your previous generation devices had the ability. Equally strange is the fact that I can use upwards of 6 different backgrounds for the Zune software but not one of my own choosing. I understand the value of battery stamina on the ZuneHD with wallpaper in the background. I get that by having wallpaper on either the device or the software the user interface might not look as grand width a background image of my choosing, but isn’t Zune about choice?

When to Not Release a Feature.
Let’s be clear Zune has a mostly amazing track record when it comes to releasing features that are tastefully done and expertly coded, with that in mind it gives me no pleasure in saying that there are some features that leave the Zune team half baked. Audiobook support is one of them. True, Zune users won’t hardly use the feature, and to be honest i’ve only bought one audiobook because it’s free however that’s no excuse for a half assed approach. I’m not saying we need an Audiobook marketplace, I am saying having them not even show up in the Zune software is an embarrassment. Almost as much of an embarrassment as having to use Audible’s god awful software. I didn’t know software could get this complicated. I didn’t know user interfaces could still be that ugly. I. Was. Wrong.

Equally emarassing is the ZuneHD’s whole situation with Applications on the ZuneHD. I’m not just talking the numbers of apps avialable in the Marketplace or the ads they include, (although both are rediculous). Apparently the ZuneHD firmware needs at least 20 to 30 seconds to launch an App, even a calculator. There’s no way this thing that can output HD content to an external monitor but can’t open a weather app in a reasonable amount of time. It speaks to be coding for the current Apps. I would be willing to overlook this but it’s strange that they wouldn’t have started working on these ahead of time, or at least had enough time to design one or two launch applications that don’t suck.

 

The funny thing is as I started to write this I realized that most of these points don’t matter. There’s dozens of small things that bother me about the software and device but i’m not going to name them here because the ability to be updated and grown beyond features it offers today is what makes anykind of software great. My small complaints don’t matter. Not a single normal user (meaning people who don’t surf Zune websites long enough to read this article) will care that when you get back from looking at a playlist in Zune Marketplace you loose your place in the list. No one is going to give a pile of leaves what I or anyone who owns a Zune website thinks. What they will do is look at tag lines and decide how well they make sense, or at features and wonder how they could work better. Feel free to add your comments about my article and your complaints and praises about the Zune software in the forums or by clicking the button below. Oh and relax guys, an article about my favorite things about Zune is coming tomorrow.