Join Date: Aug 2006
on10.net 16-Minute Zune Walkthrough
"Laura, Jesse and I headed over to Zune land to see what we could learn about this upcoming device. Since I'm a bit of a Zune enthusiast, Laura and Jesse ran camera and I handled asking the questions of Matt Jubelirer, the Zune team member who was there to show me the device (three devices, he had one of each color with him!). Matt takes us through a tour of the features and answers some questions that have been on our minds since we first started hearing about the Zune."
Watching the video (download the high-res version if you can, it's nice to watch), here are some points I gleaned:
Gear Live also has a Zune video - it's a bit "freestyle" (read: chaotic), but worth checking out if the above 16-minute video didn't satisfy your Zune hunger.
- You can flag songs - it's a discovery tool. When you find content that you want to remember later, you can flag a song and it will be tagged as such when you look at your library in the Zune desktop software.
- The slideshow feature looks completely identical to the Portable Media Center version. Hopefully the performance improved - I was using my Gigabeat S the other day, showing a friend some standard photos (320 x 240) and was appalled when the player threw up the "waiting" icon. For a 30 KB file? Come on, that's just lame.
- The Zune was designed for landscape functionality: the circular intendation on the back matches up with the directional pad on the front, giving your fingers on the back a natural place to rest to line up with your thumb on the front.
- Just like the PMC, the navigation buttons change in landscape to be logical - when you're in landscape mode the left/right buttons become the next/previous buttons. I couldn't tell if the image zoom feature from PMC 2.0 has been retained or dropped from the Zune.
- Personalization is important to the Zune team. The Zune will crop and scale images to make it the wallpaper for the device. I get the feeling this is totally automated, which means it will likely be hit or miss in terms of how well it will work with all images.
- They talked a bit about the screen quality - it's so hard to judge the quality until I can see it in person, but based on the videos and photos I've seen, it looks very crisp and high-contrast. I hope it's better than the screen on the Gigabeat S - it doesn't have a bad screen, but when compared to my Zen Vision:M, it's noticeably more pale and lacks "punch".
- The headphones are the antenna for the radio (no surprise there), just like the Gigabeat S
- RBDS (USA), RDS (Europe) is the protocol that displays the name of the song you're listening to on the radio, the genre of the radio station, etc. I have this on my car, and while it works really well, only one radio station in my local market supports that feature - thus making it effectively useless. I'd be interested in knowing how many radio stations across the USA support RBDS.
- The community feature on the Zune will display what you're doing on your Zune. I wonder about privacy features? What if you're viewing a video/photo/song and you wouldn't want others to see the name of that file? (hey, it's bound to happen people) [later in the video: by default on the Zune, wireless is turned on, but the enhanced sharing notification is turned off and will only show basic details].
- The WiFi range was specified as being designed to work with other devices in the same room. They said they tested to ranges of 20 to 40 metres (60 to 120 feet).
- There's an Inbox inside the community section on the Zune, which is a cool way to keep track of songs and photos that you've been sent. Great feature - I was wondering how hard it would be to track down a song you'd been sent if you had 30 GB of music on there already.
- Is WiFi based data encrypted? Jubelirer responded that he wasn't sure about the technical details, but that the team was focused on security to make sure data flowing back and forth was protected. It should be a rule that there's a hardcore developer in the room when a marketing guy is giving a demo. ;-)
- Video cannot be shared over the Zune, only photos and songs. This disappoints some people, including myself. Jubelirer explained that they didn't view this as a core scenario due to the large file size of most videos. Here's what I think: they realized that when two Zune owners send a large 700 MB video file from one device to another, and it chews up a good portion of the battery life, it would give a negative impression of the Zune's battery life. Forget that the customer is being unfair by thinking a huge video file transfer wouldn't have a big hit on the battery life - perception matters, as does word of mouth marketing. Sometimes it's easier to drop a feature that sets up your product in a bad light and take the heat from the customers who wanted the feature. Jubelirer said that the team is open to adding this feature in the future. My thoughts? We're living in the YouTube era, and if the Zune is all about social sharing of content, not allowing video to be shared is a mistake. More from me on this later.
- Using WiFi on the device to connect to the Internet: Jubelirer said that entering in WEP keys on a device with no keyboard would be painful, and I agree completely, though it's not something you'd need to to very often. He also said that browsing through millions of pieces of content on the device would be a negative experience. I'm not sure I agree - there's got to be a clever way to accomplish that, especially when you think of people with 80 GB iPods that have 20,000 songs on them. Navigation can be solved. I think the real reason is that Microsoft didn't have the time/resources to create a slick on-device experience for the Zune Marketplace.
- PC sync is something they're "looking into". I think this is a huge failure and something that should have been built into the product. All the other scenarios are "would have been nice", but having a WiFi-enabled device that can't sync do your desktop PC is like....having a current Windows Mobile 5 device where they broke that scenario as well. Ok, nevermind, Microsoft has a bad track record here. ;-)
- They talked about the ability to update the device with new firmware. People seem to talk about this like it's an amazingly cool feature, but with the WiFi being only peer to peer, unless there's some hidden awesomeness where one Zune has the ability to upgrade another Zune via peer to peer patching, this updating is no different than Creative releasing a new firmware update for my Zen Vision:M. Granted, there's certainly room for Microsoft to make the process easier and automatic, but it's not revolutionary.