I have been looking for an article on Xbox Music. Not a fan boy review or “Windows 8 is terrible” review.  I really want a view of Xbox Music from a music fans point of view.  I hope this will offer to other music fans in what I haven’t been able to find on the net.  I am an ecosystem type of guy.  I know it’s not the way to be, with all the choices out there, but I like to be all in to an ecosystem to experience what Apple, Microsoft, Google have to offer.  Seriously I have gone through more phones and devices in this last year then you can imagine.  I am not a guy who gets this stuff free or even to try.  I have to buy it, love it or hate it, and then throw it on eBay.  It’s a terrible obsession; one that I am okay with, my wife, not so much.

I am a family man. I have a wife and two kids that I love to hang out with. So, when I get a hour or so a day to bounce around on the web, read tweets, etc.; I always have music playing. Always.  In my teenage years and up until my late twenties I played guitar in various bands and garages. So my love of music is very important to me. In this digital age music quality, album art and the like contribute to my music experience. It may seem weird but that’s what I like, it’s more than just music alone when I am at the PC.  Like anyone else early in the MP3 game I used all sorts of players.  WinAmp was great.  Then came iTunes. It was okay. Got a big old 30 GB iPod and life was good.  ITunes was good enough.

Then Zune came along.  I have always been a Microsoft fan and when the Zune came out, I was hooked.  I could care less what all the bloggers and finance people thought about Zune.  I didn’t care.  This was it.  The Zune client was beautiful. Apple sit down. Microsoft just bested you in the music application interface department. Badly.  My brown Zune was my happiness at work.  When the Zune HD came out I was in heaven. Once I got the 64 GB with the dock all was good. All that Zune goodness, flying text and pictures on the HD was just good to stare at.  That’s it, I am set for life.

I even went through the task of making sure I had the correct meta-data and album art.  Actually, I did once for ITunes and again for Zune.  I even re-ripped my entire collection of 1000+ CDs to make sure I had a better and consistent bit rate for all my music. Yes, I am terribly anal about my music.  This is why you can see my dilemma about Xbox Music – more on that later.

Then the Zune death reports started coming.  I knew it was coming, I just was hoping Microsoft would keep it around for niche deal.  But alas that was not meant to be.  I figured hey with an Xbox music reboot and more money to throw at it, since Xbox is a fantastic brand, maybe this will be great.  Not maybe, it will be great.  Paul Thurrot was glowing about getting rid of apple devices and talked about how he had no worries about being in with Microsoft for entertainment.  I was excited.  All the people that I follow on twitter were ready; thurrot, tromboneforehire, harlemS, sayonical, and all my WP7 folks.  We were ready for Xbox music to push music and video to the next level.

Then Xbox Music was released. Updates, upgrades all around.  There were people blogging about it and trying it out. As we got further in the game, it was clear.  Xbox Music was terrible. I mean “wow” terrible.  For me the interface sucked, but even then I felt the service had all this music via my pass and I will figure out a way to make this work.  When I throw it into shuffle mode it worked.  Well to a point. See that was the first of many problems. Meta data and album artwork was touch and go.  It worked sometimes not others. Oh and if you let Xbox Music take care of your tagging, well it broke it.  If you want Music on your phone – goodness that is another conversation for another time.

I understand the Xbox Music app for touch. I really do.  If I owned a Surface I might even more. But on my Windows 8 PC, it is a tough pill to swallow.  And truthfully, I am not sure a Desktop/Zune type client is the answer either, because then you have 2 pieces of software, one for touch (Xbox Music) and one for desktop (Xbox/Zune client).  I like to have one uniform piece of software for my music. I am not a programmer and I am not sure how to pull it off and satisfy everyone.  I just figure Microsoft has a lot of smart people – I would hope they can figure it out.

At one time I was so disappointed with Xbox Music– I figured I was going to dump Microsoft completely.  Get a Mac book pro and a 160 classic iPod with iPhone and move entirely to the platform.  Then use Spotify for listening to new music on my PC or Mac in this case.

So I am asking you, enConnected Nation, have you thought about jumping ship to iTunes full time or are you just sticking with the Zune client? Do you think Microsoft will fix this? .  I love Windows 8, the Surface is great (I don’t own one but may someday) and I get the direction Microsoft is going. But Xbox Music is so, so terrible it may blow it for the whole platform for me.

10 Comments on “Town Hall: The Cost of Xbox Music”

  1. I have also thought about dumping the Microsoft ecosystem because of this horrendous failure. However, due to the release of OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, I decided that the idea of owning a Mac that didn’t have Snow Leopard was the dumbest idea I could have.
    As for using iTunes on Windows… absolutely not. The interface is ugly. If I wanted my music laid out the way iTunes did it, I might as well browse my music in Windows Explorer and just open it in the lightest media player I can find, which is likely VLC or Media Player.
    I have two computers running Windows 8. One is a laptop, the other is a tablet. I hate the Music App equally on both of them. So forget using the Music App on even the tablet, because it’s useless! Now, for using Zune with Touch input… it’s actually not that bad. Back when my tablet ran Windows 7, I had Zune installed for playing my music. For software that was not optimized for touch input, Zune did an alright job, in my opinion. So unless you’re using Windows 8 RT, there’s no reason to use the Music App over the Zune Software. I’m sticking with Zune.

    • I agree to a point. But what happens when/if Microsoft neglects the Zune client? I think the Zune client was the best interface that ever happened to music players. With how bad Xbox music is I wonder why Microsoft is so quiet on the issue.

    • What do you mean by “neglect?” The worst they could do really is remove the Zune Software’s access to the marketplace. Even then, the client could be used for listening to music obtained from other sources. Beyond that, I don’t think Microsoft is going to take away the Zune software from current users.

    • Oh yeah I think you could use the player forever. The Zune client was stripped of the social feature which was something a lot of people liked. I also don’t think Microsoft will take away the Zune client soon, but with the mess that is Xbox music, and how slowly they are “fixing” that, I see them putting the Zune client even further in the rear view mirror.

  2. The ecosystem right now is a mess, I’ll grant you that. But I do have faith it will improve.

    I came to Zune relatively late as it was not available worldwide through a refurbished Black 30GB brick. When in the States 6 months later, I picked up a red 64GB then had the HD shipped here on launch day. By that time, I had been using an iPhone for much of a year. I had an iPod classic before then and I am not about to go back.

    First, on iPhone, the iTunes experience is mediocre at best. The iTunes Store is not completely accessible the same way grabbing a song in WP7.5 is. The only media I used on the iPhone was listening to a Podcast through Stitcher, which is one of the only apps I miss on the Windows Phone. And part of owning the Zune and now WP7.5 is the Zune Pass experience. As I am still in WP7.5, of necessity, I use the Zune desktop. It has allowed me to kind of sit the fence with how I handle media.

    From the title of the Town Hall here, I thought this would be more about the relative cost (price) of Xbox music, but see it is more about the musical-casualty called Xbox music. I came to Zune late enough NOT to have experienced what I was led to believe through Zune sites and articles the worst music desktop system bar none. Light on content, difficult to navigate and depressingly dark, it gave way to versions we have come to take for granted. So I trust, considering it is tied to the Windows 8 and making its way more seriously worldwide, that the Xbox music will also evolve. I have used the “play to” to pop videos and music onto my Xbox 360 and have also used the SmartGlass feature. Xbox Music on the 360 is not exactly the easiest to use, and also lacks features. I am worried more about the slapdash way they have approached Windows Phone 8 and music. I am feeling better and better about letting the dust settle there for the time being while I wait for WP7.8.

    But my advice is hold tight. Considering all these connections and interconnections and symbiotic relationships, it will all work out. While we all wish it were the seamless transition of our ideal world, it has seemed more like a difficult birth with a lot of screaming and clawing, cursing. Really, there is much to love about Xbox music and as we experience its growth, we can provide the support the platform will need. An exodus to other platforms will only weaken the system and deny Apple and Android the competition they sorely deserve.

    • Great post! Do you think Microsoft will fix this in 2013? An I agree – Apple and Google really, really need the competition.

    • That is what I thought, my thought is people who were loyal thought he zune years and the WP7 early years would leave too. But I wonder if people with a passing interest in music think Xbox music is fine.

  3. I agree on many points of your article. I was a huge fan of Zune. Zune was my first entrance into the era of digital music. Of course it had its issues, but overall it was a fresh step in the right direction in general for music. With Microsoft now removing Zune from its services and utilizing Xbox Music I was excited for a re-dedicated focus and the possibility of expanding a greater “Zune-styled” revision. However what happened? With Xbox Music I feel I have little, if any, control over my music, especially in organizing it. Now it is dependent on the cloud and if my music is recognized by the cloud.

    Playing music is frustrating and I rarely if ever know if I’m playing my local music or music from the cloud. I agree and am happy that for a tablet user/Surface user the interface has some nice qualities; but there needs to be a solidified and flexible UI for both touch and non-touch users alike. I feel that right now Microsoft is in an experimental stage, where they are going to get a little messy. They have great ideas; unfortunately, sometimes you need to start from scratch and make a mess of things before you can make something great and progress forward. But utilizing both Xbox Music and the Zune client together on my Windows 8 laptop, simply feels ludicrous and irritating at best.

    I don’t think I could ever buy an iPod or progress into iTunes as I simply do not care for the setup of Apple’s ecosystem. While I think Apple is more solidified, it does not have the inspirational vision for an individualistic future. I still think Microsoft can turn this around quickly they just need to figure out what works and what doesn’t. While I think Microsoft heralded the cloud too quickly, implying that Zunes were no longer necessary due to the ability to store music in the cloud and stream to any device, the services are new, and what they neglect is that the past security of devices and services that DO work, should never be removed until the future (cloud services and devices) has emerged from the experimental stage to a secure and understandable phase for the general population.

    • Spot on! I hope they fix or at least say “hey we get the problems and we are working hard to resolve this”. My worry is they are thinking all is well and the average user will be fine with the music piece. I hope I am wrong.

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