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Old 08-29-2008, 03:00 PM
Jason Dunn
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Join Date: Aug 2006
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Default State of the Zune 2.0 Union, 9 Months In

<p><img src="http://images.thoughtsmedia.com/resizer/thumbs/size/600/zt/auto/1219962118.usr1.jpg" /></p><p>Zune fans, we're just a bit over 9 months into the life of the second-generation Zune, and I thought it was time to take stock of where we're at, and what things need to be fixed, and added, for the Zune to continue moving forward. Since launch, we've had a couple of minor firmware updates, and the big Spring 2.5 update, so if the pattern continues we should see something new from the Zune team this holiday season. Here are my own thoughts about the state of the Zune union. Things that I think need fixing, replacing, or adding.<MORE /></p><p><strong>Zune Hardware</strong></p><ul><li><strong>More Storage: </strong>The Zune 80 needs to grow in capacity (120 GB sounds good to me!) but it also needs a VGA (480 x 640) screen, if not a WVGA (480 x 320 or higher). We need a 16 GB flash Zune as well - music lovers might like the smaller player. Just because Apple hasn't gone there with the Nano yet doesn't mean the Zune can't. Beat Apple for once in the storage game!<br /></li><li><strong>More Video &amp; Audio Codecs:</strong> It's great that h.264 is supported, but there's a lot of content out there in Divx and Xvid formats. Add support for these formats directly on-device. Extend audio format support to include OGG and FLAC. If this is really a music-lovers device, support all the common formats that music lovers use, especially those crazy audiophiles. Apple is a format bigot when it comes to video, you have a real opportunity here <br /></li><li><strong>Better battery life:</strong> if Apple can get five to seven hours of video out of their iPod Classic, the Zune has to do at least that well. Oh, and up the audio playback time too - don't give people an excuse to buy an iPod because the Zune can't last as long.</li><li><strong>Enhance the on-device software:</strong> I still want a clock darn it! And I want to be able to read the ID3 comment field on my songs since I usually have artist bios and Amazon.com reviews in there. Let me dive deeper into my music. Add a "zoom to fit" function for video playback so I can use all my screen and watch video in the right aspect ratio. I keep hearing about demand for audio books as well - I don't listen to audio books, but there seem to be a good number of people that do, so let's bring them into the fold.</li></ul><p><strong>Zune Desktop Software</strong></p><ul><li><strong>Performance:</strong> I personally find the Zune software pretty snappy, but I have pretty good hardware. I see a lot of complaints from people who find the software sluggish, slow to load, etc. Work on making it lean and mean - and it's not like there's a high bar here; iTunes performs like a water buffalo after a shot of tequila laced with Rohypnol. Why does the Zune software chew up 80%+ of my dual core CPU when it does a start-up scan? Keep the aggressive folder monitoring, but don't chew up too many CPU cycles doing it.<br /></li><li><strong>Fix the Install Bugs:</strong> I'm going to go berserk and do something crazy like buy an iPod if I keep seeing comments from people (especially on YouTube) who can't get the Zune software installed. Make it robust, make it fast, make it simple. It's brutal that if I download the latest version from the Zune.net Web site I have to stare at it "checking for updates" for 90 seconds. I know the installer has gotten better from v1, but keep at it - if the person can't get the software installed, they're probably not going to keep the Zune. And, really, something like <a href="http://remove-it.org/tools/unzoone" target="_blank">Unzoone</a> shouldn't even have to exist. An uninstall should really be an uninstall, and if need be, create an official Zune install clean up program.<br /></li><li><strong>Continue to Improve Sync Groups &amp; Autoplaylists:</strong> They got a lot better in the 2.5 update, but it's still ridiculous that if I create a sync group asking for my past 60 days of photos that it will give me all 18,000 of my photos because I had to re-install the software and every photo is considered "new". The Zune software should see the EXIF data on photos, and the file creation date on music and video files, when determining the date of a file.<br /></li><li><strong>Improve Video Transcoding:</strong> Video transcoding is, at best, an incomplete solution. The first problem is that people have content in all sorts of formats (MKV, Divx, Xvid, etc.) and the Zune software won't import these videos. This really confuses people - expand the format support so even if you can't support it in the device, you can transcode it. And improve the transcoding process! I can't count the number of times I'll think my Zune is done the sync and then it will start transcoding a video...then go to 50% complete, then back to 0%, then up to 80% - it's a mess. Thank goodness the Windows Media Encoder back-end is multi-core friendly though - good on 'ya for getting that part right.</li><li><strong>Finishing Touches:</strong> Let us create our own categories for videos. Let us edit the metadata on our videos so we get a nice browsing experience on the Zune.</li></ul><p><strong>Zune Marketplace</strong></p><ul><li><strong>Fulfill Your Destiny:</strong> Content purchased on the Xbox Live marketplace should be downloadable on my PC and play on my Zune, and content purchased on the Zune Marketplace should also download to and play on my Xbox 360. Microsoft is one company - act like it and complete the circle of content happiness that your users expect you to.</li><li><strong>Offer an MP3 Filter in the Marketplace:</strong> Make it easy for me to shop for MP3s only, and give me a way to tell the music publisher that <a href="http://www.zunethoughts.com/news/show/89945/the-zune-marketplace-and-mp3-demand.html" target="_blank">I was all ready to buy the song, but didn't because it's not in MP3 format</a>. Let us, the customers, help you break the chains of DRM that we know you don't want (well, except for the Zune Pass, we understand why there's DRM there).<br /> </li></ul><p>So what are your thoughts about where the Zune is as today? In your mind, what needs to be fixed to improve your Zune experience? Or, if you're not a Zune owner, what's been holding you back? I'd like to hear from <em>everyone </em>on this, even if it's just to re-iterate one of the points I made above. I want to get a feel for what people think is important.</p><p><em>Jason Dunn owns and operates <a href="http://www.thoughtsmedia.com" target="_blank">Thoughts Media Inc.</a>, a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys <a href="http://photos.jasondunn.com/" target="_blank">photography</a>, mobile devices, <a href="http://www.jasondunn.com" target="_blank">blogging</a>, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He likes the Zune, despite all the criticism levelled at it in this article.</em></p>
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Old 08-29-2008, 03:59 PM
onlydarksets's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 853

Good write-up, Jason! I'll add two thoughts:

Better battery life:if Apple can get five to seven hours of video out of their iPod Classic, the Zune has to do at least that well. Oh, and up the audio playback time too - don't give people an excuse to buy an iPod because the Zune can't last as long.
True, but the Apple has a 2.5" screen and the Zune has a 3.2" screen.

So, the Zune screen is 56% bigger than the Apple screen, but gets 80% of the battery life. That's not too bad in my book!

Second, for the Desktop Software, a grid view that allows easier editing of metadata is key, especially for videos.
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Old 08-29-2008, 04:07 PM
onlydarksets's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 853

Also, shouldn't this be the "State of the Zunion (2.0)" thread?
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Old 08-29-2008, 04:33 PM
paschott's Avatar
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 211

I'll agree with the codec portion. DivX and xVid would be nice to have.

However, for the software, I'd like a little more control of my files. I pulled in a bunch of files that I'd grabbed from a podcast, but wanted them in the main library so I could put them in a playlist. For some odd reason, it detected several of these entries as being exactly the same. When I pulled in part 1 of 20, it would replace part 5 of 20. Pull back in part 5, part 1 goes away. Repeat, repeat, repeat, switch to WinAmp or any other player that doesn't try to be "smart".

Not sure where this fits, but I've popped in CDs, had them display correctly (except for a spelling error or two). I start ripping and find that it's not a completely different CD and I'm ripping the wrong artist, album, and track names. What's up with that?

On the whole, the 2.5 software is closer to where the 2.0 should have been, but there are still a lot of shortcomings. Just look at the official MS Zune forums for what people say about the software.
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Old 08-29-2008, 04:35 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 242

Release Zune Marketplace in Canada!!!

9 months with the hardware and software, but no online service? C'mon....
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:07 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 67
Default Features

I agree with Jason's accessment of the state of the Zune. I've had my share of problems with installs. In addition I'd like to add the following:

Bookmarks. The Zune needs a bookmarking system for multiple files that remembers it's place whether or not the Zune is in "standby" or turned off.

It would be nice if files marked with the Genre of "AUDIOBOOK" were automatically provided with bookmarks when the Zune is placed in "standby" or turned off.

Audiobooks should have their own startup category or be merged with Podcasts... Podcasts/Audiobooks.

Placing files in the Podcast folder is a poor excuse for implementing bookmarks for all genre's.

How about some EQ? Lot's of headsets need a little tweaking. Earbuds, IMHO, need even more tweaking.

Provide a selectable feature that "normalizes" files sent to the Zune.

Last edited by SoundMix; 08-30-2008 at 05:28 PM..
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:16 PM
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 372

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Old 08-29-2008, 05:22 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 1
Default Quick Lists...

Please give us a way to save quick playlists as well! and a way to remove individual songs from playlists, not clearing the entire playlist then re-adding.
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:32 PM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 12

Maybe not as important as some of the other things requested here, but I'd really like to be able to download content from the Marketplace directly to my Zune using it's built-in WiFi. I'd also think that being able to look at other people's Zunecards on the device would be useful too.
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Old 08-29-2008, 05:38 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 10

Not being able to turn off auto-sync is the #1 software complaint and needs to be addessed.
Go to any forum and you will see post after post of people asking why the stuff on their Zunes gets deleted when they delete them from their PC.
I know about the guest option but new users don't (and shouldn't have to).
This must be addressed!

And 3rd party hardware support is a must!
I can go to my local gas station and buy iPod accessories but I can go into every brick and mortar electronics store in town and find maybe one Zune dock.
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