Topics include: programming, Apple, Unix, gadgets, large-scale web sites and other nerdy stuff.

Cut the Zune Some Slack, eh?

2006-11-16 15:53:19

The barrage of negative commentary on the Zune is crazy. I like to make fun of Microsoft as much as anyone else, but this is just silly. The Zune bad, iPod good is just too tiresome already.

The iPod is a really nice gadget. But when it came out, a lot of people thought it was dumb for a computer company to come out with what was essentially a modernized Walkman. (Smugly, I often say that I ordered my iPod the day it was announced. I thought it was the coolest thing evar!!!11! But I also bought my first Mac, a G4 Cube, because I thought it was the coolest computer ever. Shows what I know.)

The iPod of today is suffering from some significant bloat. On the original iPod, when you rolled the wheel, the menus moved. Like they were mechanically connected. On my newer iPod, there's a visible delay as I roll and click around the UI. It's really not that nice any more. It really needs some competition to slim down.

The Zune seems like a nice little gadget. It's probably every bit as nice as the iPod was when it first came out. But the iPod has become entrenched, mostly because a lot of people have bought a lot of music on iTunes. And because they are too stupid to figure out how to disable the iTunes DRM with the keys that Apple has sitting under the doormat. (I think this easy bypass is one reason for the ITMS success: I personally wouldn't have bought much music from ITMS if the DRM hadn't been easy to defeat. I'm just too paranoid about losing the keys.)

In any case, Microsoft hasn't quite figured this out yet. They are trying to make a tougher DRM system work. I think, eventually, they will clue in, and lighten it up. It certainly is easier to start with a tough system and loosen the controls than the reverse. And they will make the Zune have more sexy features so it will actually be better than an iPod in some ways. Just give them a chance.

The iPod is a once-in-a-decade smash hit idea. It's a nearly impossible task to try and duplicate that, so people should just chill out and see what MS can do. Probably they won't be able to pull it off, but if they do, we'll all have a better music device. And if they don't, at least Apple will feel some pressure to keep innovating and improving the iPod.

Am I getting a Zune? No, my iPod works just fine for now.