Zune reaches critical mass of craptacularosity
The Macalope was willing to give the Zune the benefit of the doubt for a while, but yesterday it reached a point where the negatives overtook the positives.
The Zune had three things the iPod didn’t: a physically larger screen, wireless and… brown. But as Pee Wee Herman said “Everyone I know has a big ‘but’.”
The screen is larger, but the resolution is still the same as the iPod’s. It has wireless, but it may drain the heck out of the battery and might only be useful if you run into Jim Allchin.
And, in the Macalope’s opinion, brown is a fine color for mythical beasts, but not for electronic devices. Many who have seen it in person say it has a nice retro look, but unless you’re going to put a tacky brown face plate on your cell phone, it doesn’t go with any of the devices you already own. How’s a girl supposed to accessorize?
The Macalope believed the one thing that could make up for the Zune’s big “buts” and the iPod’s market advantage was aggressive pricing. But the Zune is actually 99 cents more expensive than the iPod. And that’s the cheapest Zune you can buy. If you want to get play in the Zune pool, you’ve got to shell out $249.99.
The subscription service is a ridiculously high $14.99 a month or, if you want to buy songs individually, they’re roughly the same as iTunes’ 99 cents. Although, because Microsoft sells 80 Microsoft points for a dollar and songs are 79 points, you get one free song for every 396 you buy – so act now!
Well, not now, because you can’t buy it now. Act Nov. 14th!
But if you’ve purchased any DRM-protected songs (including the oxymoronically named Plays4Sure), they won’t play on the Zune. Remember when the news of the Zune was first leaked and we were breathlessly told by Microsoft boosters that all your iTunes songs are belong to us because they would somehow magically be re-licensed on the Zune because Apple stupidly published that API called NSListOfSongsToReLicense and Microsoft is just so mega-rich and mega-cool that they can do that and no one else in the world can and OMG, OMG, OMFG?!
Yeah, well, about all those songs you already bought… how’d you like to pay for them all over again? Or, better yet, every month for the rest of your life?
And the Macalope can’t help but wonder what the activation process is for the Zune, the store and the media. Does it involve 16-digit alphanumeric codes that you get after waiting on hold to talk to someone in Redmond? Frankly, the Macalope’s had enough problems with registering computers on iTunes, although the added ability to deregister them all in one swell foop has pretty much cleared that up. Still, the process just doesn’t need to be any more complicated and you can forgive the Macalope if he doesn’t trust Microsoft to make a better mouse trap here.
Finally, the Zune’s supposed video advantage over the iPod may be difficult to enjoy. Microsoft’s store won’t be offering video on launch, so you have to bring your own.
Just, you know, make sure they aren’t DRM-protected. Because they won’t play.
The Macalope’s not saying the Zune is DOA, but in its current form it’s remarkably troubled and is simply not a compelling competitor to the iPod. Microsoft has not leapfrogged Apple at all because each leap forward is matched by a leap back.