I love the Microsoft Zune. Yeah, that’s right. I said it. I’ve owned one since the original 30-gig brick came out (a great scratch-proof design that still looks new today), and now my wife has the new Zune HD, and it is a remarkable product. Not that I don’t own iPods too! I don’t discriminate… I have a ton of iPods, plus the iPhone (all flavors since launch). But in comparing them to the Zune, I’ve always felt that the Zune had a significant edge over the iPod in a number of ways that are important to me.
First, the Zune’s user interface has always had a huge advantage in music navigation. You can get to what you want much faster than using the classic iPod click-wheel design. The click-wheel was brilliant in 2001, but with today’s music collections shooting into the 10’s or 100’s of gigs, it’s just impractical and the overall iPod interface itself is too cumbersome. Not that it matters though, as it is clear both Apple and Microsoft are moving emphasis to their touch-based products instead.
In the touch arena, Apple has some significant advantages from a feature standpoint (App Store, plus overall better podcasting support in iTunes), but for strictly music/video navigation and playback, the Zune HD’s interface is supremely ideal. You can find what you want faster, and the interface looks good doing it.
Second (and perhaps more importantly), the sound quality of the Zune HD is clearly better than any iPod or iPhone I’ve ever heard. Add in the gorgeous OLED screen, the Zune HD also beats out my iPod/iPhone for watching videos as well. Yes, it’s a smaller screen, but the quality is worth it.
Finally, the fact that Microsoft continually updates the Zune firmware to add more and more features (even to their old original Zunes!), plus the Zune software (which gets better and better), the unlimited-downloading Zune Pass, etc., and it becomes an irresistible platform for me. The Zune software is so amazing, it deserves it’s own post. It is the exact opposite of iTunes, and a real winner.
Regardless, there are some improvements I’d like to see with the Zune HD, and the Zune software. Microsoft, if you are listening, please consider the following:
- Make a 64+ gigabyte version of the Zune HD. Like… now. I don’t really need to elaborate on the importance of this, do I?
- Make a native Mac version of the Zune software. You will gain many converts. Trust me on this. iTunes is universally hated. This is the lowest hanging fruit you could pick, and it would taste delicious.
- The next iteration of the Zune HD could stand to be a bit bigger. Right now it is essentially iPod nano size, which is great, but for movie watching, it would be nicer to have a slightly bigger screen.
- It doesn’t need this… but, if you ever did add a camera to the Zune HD, make it record in 720p, and give users the ability to share videos peer-to-peer over the Zune’s wifi connection.
- Regarding the Zune software, please add categories for the various Billboard charts (top 100, by genre, etc.), plus international charts as well. It’s always nice to know what the #1 song in the UK is (and to be able to immediately download it via my Zune Pass), for example.
- Add an AM radio in addition to the HD radio. I don’t know why people hate on AM, but I think it’s still a hugely popular format for talk radio, sports, etc. I always have to carry an AM radio with me to football games. I’d rather carry my Zune.
- Add a record feature for the radio. Right now you can tag FM/HD songs for downloading them via the Zune Pass (amazing feature), but if you could record radio as well (especially when combined with AM talk radio) for time-shifting purposes, etc., that would be awesome. Lock it down to AM only if you have to, it’s still a useful feature.
I’m sure there are more things… or even more important things, but for right now, those features would turn an already great product into a legendary one.
What features would you add to the Zune HD?