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September 24, 2006

iTunes 7... Don't Go There?

Widespread problems are being encountered by iTunes users after downloading iTunes Release 7.

Zunerama's scan this morning of recent "hot topics" in Apple's iTunes service and support page indicates some serious glitches may need to be worked out of iTunes 7.

Commonly-reported problems include:

  • iTunes for Windows video playback perfomance issues
  • Sound quality issues
  • iTunes 7 won't play interactive booklets from the iTunes Store
  • Installer crashes (error 2738)
  • iTunes 7 for Windows: iTunes fails to launch with an unknown error
  • Recent posts to Apple's support forum include:

  • Problems with itunes7 not responding once ipod recognised
  • audio distorted
  • My itunes 7 is acting up...and im wondering can i get on older version!
  • iTunes 7 messed up my library, how do I revert?
  • Downloaded Version 7.0 all music really fuzzy..?
  • iTunes 7 deleted "Downloads" folder of music from iTunes and iPod
  • Poor sound quality after upgrade to itunes 7
  • No doubt, many of these are user problems or specific to a small set of user configurations. Anytime a new release is unveiled of massively popular software like iTunes, a rash of user-reported problems will surface.

    But the flurry of iTunes 7 problems is drawing attention, and articles of concern are mounting - including recent articles from TechWeb and Yahoo news.

    In the words of one iPod user, "Unless it is absolutely necessary for you to upgrade to iTunes 7 right now, I would advise holding off until a correct version is released - these forums are full of members who have spent hours trying to work out fixes - just stick with 6.0.3."


    September 23, 2006

    Zune conversations

    I've been travelling this week, on business and to see family. I've spoken with a dozen colleagues and relatives about Zune, and found some pretty consistent reactions.

    The impressions below are representative of the conversations I had, which included teenagers as well as twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty-somethings. I found:

  • Not one of them had heard about Zune, or even that Microsoft was planning to launch a music player.
  • Surprising to me, because I've been so immersed in the Zune goldfish bowl. Clearly, even with Microsoft's limited debut last week (and even with the "Ellen" appearance), Zune is not close to being mainstream news yet.

    The buzz is pretty limited to technerds and diehard music-gadget lovers at this point.

  • 100% of the people I spoke with had a first reaction something like: "Well, I really like Apple" or "I really like my iPod".
  • This wasn't much of a surprise, but still is awe-inducing to see the loyal owner-base that Apple has earned.

  • Everyone I spoke to thought the Zune's wireless feature was really intriguing, really "cool".
  • And this was after hearing about some of the restrictions, such as the 3-plays-for-3-days rule. Interest in wireless was highest in teenagers and college students, in my limited sampling.

    It was an interesting mix of curiosity about Zune, excitement about the prospect of wireless sharing, and brand-loyalty for Apple as a company and iPod as a player. There are a lot of people who just don't want to see Microsoft hurt Apple again.

    What kind of reactions do you hear when talking about Zune with family and friends? Post your comments.

    September 20, 2006

    Zune pricing leaked at $229.99

    Zune graphic

    First, we heard this morning from David Caulton of Microsoft's Zune team that "Zune won't be undercut on price by iPod". Then Gizmodo leaked a story indicating that Microsoft met yesterday to determine the price of the first Zune player.

    Apparently Microsoft had initially set $289.99, to undercut iPod's $299 price for its 30GB player. But after last week's price breaks from Apple, knocking the 30GB to $249, Microsoft pushed the price down to $229.99.

    We're loving the aggressiveness of Microsoft's pricing. It's a clear gauntlet-drop - and says a lot about Microsoft's determination to grab a generous slice of Apple's pie.

    September 15, 2006

    Sharing songs with Zune - step-by-step

    See how Zune song-sharing works in this 70-second clip.

    How-to steps:

  • Select "Music" option
  • Select desired song (listing by artist or playlist or song title)
  • Select "Send"
  • A list of nearby Zunes appears (showing ZuneTags for each owner)
  • Select desired Zune to send song to
  • Now the video pans over to the second Zune.

  • That Zune receives a message "jeremyZune wants to send sample songs. Accept?"
  • Select "yes"
  • A "connecting" symbol appears with a progress indicator
  • Songs are transferred
  • Simplicity is good.


    September 15, 2006

    Video clip of Zune in operation

    You've seen the pictures - now see the video.

    This short clip shows the Zune in landscape and portrait video display, and shows 8 pictures being wirelessly transferred to the Zune from a nearby Zune.

    Thanks to ZuneInsider for the look at the Zune user interface.


    September 14, 2006

    Zunerama interview with Chris Stephenson, Microsoft's GM of Marketing

    Zune graphic

    This morning, Zunerama got 30 minutes with Chris Stephenson, Microsoft's General Manager of marketing and product management, to discuss the upcoming Zune player and Zune Marketplace.

    (For those of you who follow ZuneInsider, Chris is Cesar Menendez's boss.)

    Here's a recap:

    Microsoft's vision is all about sharing and community across a broad spectrum of entertainment and digital media. It goes beyond the near-range Wi-Fi sharing of Zune-to-Zune. Chris described the concept as analogous to Xbox live, in the way that Xbox moved from being a standalone device to one that connects its owners to others in broad ways.

    Similarly, Zune will give the ability to listen, share playlists, make recommendation, make comments, in a Live community online. Consumers will essentially become the promoters of the content being shared.

    ZuneTags: When you buy a Zune device, you will join the community - giving yourself a name to identify you and your device in the community. You'll have a friends list similar to your buddies list in MSN Messenger. Like the GamerTags used in Xbox, Zune owners will be identified in the Zune community with nicknames, which Chris called ZuneTags.

    Converting iPod users: When you connect your Zune it will find media on your PC and make it available to you, to the extent it's not restricted by the company you purchased it from. So, while Zune can play unprotected AAC files, it won't be able to play downloaded iTunes files, and Apple is unlikely to change that restriction.

    Likewise, when content is purchased from the Zune Marketplace, the product downloads are DRM'd - and protected to run on only Zune players.

    DJ feature: Chris commented that the term that was being bandied about had come from the Toshiba featureset. Microsoft has made no specific announcements yet about the DJ feature, but it appears that Zune will have something similar, possibly using a different name for the feature.

    Battery: The iPod will have a built-in non-replaceable rechargeable battery - similar to iPod. In response to our questions about battery life, Chris said they are not releasing specific details yet, but the battery performs comparably with iPod. Chris didn't have specifics on Wi-Fi drain, but pointed out that Wi-FI is turned on only when needed. We'll be interested in seeing more data once it's released.

    Chris also hinted that the Microsoft battery will also be significantly quicker than iPod to get to full-charge.

    Pricing has not been announced; Chris acknowledged that $299 has been widely bandied about. Microsoft will, he said, be at parity with the market. Pricing has also not yet been released on the Zune Marketplace subscription services.

    Release date: Chris said they haven't divulged the Zune release date, but it was safe to say "holiday 2006". We asked specifically about November 14th; Chris said November was probably not a bad guess.

    In addition, we were able to get answers to several specifications questions that are not in Microsoft's publicly released materials:

  • Dimensions: 4.4h x 2.4w x .58d inches

  •          (Compare to iPod 30GB: 4.1h x 2.4w x .43d inches)
  • Weight: 5.6 ounces

  •          (Compare to iPod 30GB: 4.8 ounces; 60GB: 5.5 ounces)
  • Battery: Built-in (non-replaceable Li-Ion rechargeable)
  • Resolution: 320x240, on all codecs

  •          (Compare to iPod: 320x240)
  • Audio formats: WMA, MP3, AAC

  •          (iPod: AAC, MP3, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIFF, WAV)
  • Picture formats: JPG
  • Video formats: H.264, MPEG-4, WMV

  •          (Compare to iPod: H.264, m4v, mp4, mov, MPEG-4)

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    September 14, 2006

    Zune report card

    Zune graphic From the Zunerama forums: thanks to guest contributor Duke of Zune for the following review.

    SPECS: A-

    Wi-fi and large screen are reasons enough to consider Zune over iPod.

    It'd be a full-blown "A" if you could upload songs wirelessly. Though, since the Zune has upgradeable software, that may become available later.

    LOOKS: C

    Microsoft played it safe -- too safe in my opinion.

    iPod's are cute, but, maybe, a little played out. I think microsoft would've been better served distinguishing Zune from the iPod. Maybe they're hoping that less savvy shoppers mistake the Zune for an iPod.

    Also, the brown one is kind of ugly, but... it's so "out"... it may actually be "in". It's so anti-establishment... it may actually be "hip".


    Nothing really innovative here, but they cover all their bases, especially for a debut product.


    I'm in the market for a new MP3 player this holiday season. I was going to buy an iPod, just because... there really wasn't any other option until July. But, now, i'll probably give Zune a try instead. I generally like Microsoft's products...

    (Oh, but i won't be buying the brown one... no matter how "hip"... the black one is hottest.)


    September 14, 2006

    Zune: features confirmed by Microsoft

    Zune graphic

    Microsoft's Zune leadership team divulged details for the first time on the Zune player to be released this fall, and the online music/video service Zune Marketplace.

    Here's a summary of the specifications released by Microsoft in this morning's teleconferences:

    Zune details confirmed today

  • Storage: 30 GB
  • Display: 3" LCD

  •          (Compare to iPod: 2.5" LCD)
  • FM receiver: Yes

  •          (Compare to iPod: no built-in FM)
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g ("Wi-Fi")
  • Wireless functions: DJ mode; sharing
  • Battery: Li-Ion
  • Colors: White, black, brown
  • More updates are coming.


    September 14, 2006

    Two mild surprises in today's Zune announcement

    Zune graphic

    Microsoft's debut announcement for Zune confirmed some of the speculated features of its iPod-killer portable media player... but it contained some mild surprises as well:

  • Choice of downloads or subscriptions. This had been speculated, but nice to see it confirmed by Microsoft. We think many will be attracted to the simple subscription model.
  • Imports from iTunes. We need more details on this, but Microsoft pledges to make it easy to transfer your existing playlist to Zune - with the important caveat "as permitted by the online service from which it was purchased". We were surprised to see it highlighted in the Zune fact sheets, and are interested in how it can be pulled off without better cooperation from other online music stores.
  • More updates are coming.


    September 14, 2006

    New Zune details confirmed today by Microsoft

    Zune graphic

    Microsoft released details today about Zune, in an advance invitation-only teleconferences.

    Microsoft's Zune leadership team divulged details for the first time on the Zune player to be released this fall. They also gave new details about Microsoft's Zune online music/video service, dubbed Zune Marketplace.

    Released today by Microsoft:

  • Zune Fact Sheet
  • Zune Home A/V Pack
  • Zune Car Pack
  • Zune Travel Pack
  • Stay tuned - more to come!


    September 12, 2006

    Side-by-side: new iPod vs. Zune

    Today Apple announced its new iPod, featuring an 80 GB video model for $349. How does the new iPod stack up against Microsoft's soon-to-debut Zune player?

    The table below compares features and technical specs for iPod with the rumored features of Microsoft's first Zune player, scheduled for release in Fall 2006.

    Side-by-Side: Zune vs. the new iPod

    Update (Sep 24, 2006): We moved this Side-by-Side comparison to a page of its own, which we maintain as new information is leaked or otherwise made available. Go to the Zune vs iPod: Side-by-Side comparison page.

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    September 11, 2006

    Zunerama Logo Contest

    Folks, we're in need of a fancy schmancy logo for Zunerama.

    Oh I know... you like the simplicity, the quiet elegance of our site. You like that we don't have gaudy colors, flashing lights, and animated gifs attacking your senses each time you drop by for a little Zune community.

    Our mantra from the start has been that we focus the site on content, and not on cosmetics.

    While that is true, it's also reality that we are LAME when it comes to graphics design. We'd rather work on the third draft of a 100-word story about Zune than fiddle with the airbrush tool settings in PhotoShop.

    But now, we're firmly entrenched as a top ten Zune site, on all 3 leading site registers... and we're feeling a little uppity. It's time to clean up the front porch a bit and act like we belong in this neighborhood.

    Can you help?

    We're asking you closet graphic designers to take a shot at designing a Zunerama logo.

    Believe me, you can't do any worse than our attempts.

    If your logo is selected, you will receive a warm feeling every day, when you see your logo gracing the header of every page on the Zunerama site. The people around you will love you just a little more because of your accomplishment. You can add "Zunerama logo-maker" to your resume. And, we'll send you a collector's-item Zune logo sticker.

    (Yes, we're sharing the booty we won by submitting Zune haikus to ZuneInsider.)

    We'll accept submissions through Friday September 22, and announce our winner that weekend.

    Please post your offerings in this thread. Thanks for helping us. Create away!


    September 8, 2006

    Golden Zune Awards

    Zune graphic

    This week, Zunerama is pleased to unveil the 1st annual Golden Zune awards.

    There are now over fifty Zune websites, according to registries like,, and

    We are now accepting Golden Zune nominations for these websites. You can make up the categories, but some suggested ones are:

  • Best Zune user forum
  • Strangest forum topic
  • Best looking sites with no content
  • Worst off-topic post
  • Best Zune news sites
  • Best technical Zune site
  • Best Zune blogs
  • Best use of gaudy website colors
  • ... that should get you started.

    Nominations close Monday Sep 25.

    Post your nominations here.

    You can find links to Zune sites in our (what else?) Zune Sites thread.

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