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ipod vs. Zune



The Zune team has been planning on getting back into the game for a while now, and the this was only hastened after they lost market share in the holiday sales numbers.  While they created a great hard drive player, Apple became a moving target, and moved on to a multitouch screen in a wifi connected, flash based device.  Clearly the bar had been raised when the iPod Touch came to market.

Apparently, based on the pic above from the Engadget site, the new Zune will be dubbed the ZuneHD.  Look for it to feature the solitary "home button" that is prominent on an iPod Touch, and for it to debut in September.  That screen will be great when it debuts!

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Zune 80 GB Review


You would think that at this stage of the game, there wouldn't be anything new to say about the Zune 80 gig.  Well, maybe not.  Looks like at least one guy out there recently discovered the Zune.  He liked it so much that he even wrote up his experience:

Let me open right away and warn hardcore geeks to stop reading. Yeah - I know the Microsoft Zune has been out for some time, and yes - I know there is another player out there that seems to be getting most of the attention.
But for the benefit of our readers, I decided to take a Microsoft Zune for a spin to see whether I was missing something (yes, I too was guilty of being one of those geeks who ignored the Zune for too long).

He goes on to explain the good points of owning a Zune.  It was a fun read, and I sometimes like reading reviews of products that I already own.  It reminds me why I

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No iPods at the Gates House


Among the younger set, most think that an iPod is synonymous with an mp3 player.  You know, like Kleenex is a tissue, and a Xerox is a copy.  Chalk one up to Apple's marketing machine for pulling off that feat for a product that has only been around for several years.  How bad has it gotten?  Bill Gates has forbidden his children from acquiring a iPod product:

In the latest issue of Vogue, Bill's wife, Melinda Gates, reveals that among the "very few things" on "the banned list in our household" are—you guessed it—iPods and iPhones.

Brutal, yes—especially for Bill and Melinda's three kids (two daughters and a son, aged 12, six, and nine, respectively), who'll just have to grin and bear it as their little pals make merry with the latest and greatest iPod.

And even Melinda herself admits to an occasional pang of Apple envy: "Every now and then I look at my friends and say, 'Ooh, I wouldn't mind having that iPhone.'"

Oh, this is brutal indeed.  Apparently the kiddies do have Zunes, so all is not lost.  However, maybe Bill Gates should realize that he shouldn't need to resort to banning the competition to get his children to use his companies product.  Perhaps he should let them have it, and he would see what would make the Zune even better, or the need for a Zune Phone.  Hey, just a thought, but then again, this is nothing that a decade of psychotherapy later on won't fix...

What do you think: Father Gates knows best, or just an unreasonable control freak.

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Moving From iPod To Zune

You know the phrase "Breaking up is hard to do?"  Well, it likely applies to migrating an iTunes collection to the Zune.  Recall that if you've been an iPod user, you likely purchased some tracks from the iTunes store.  While lately they can be had in the universal mp3 format, they probably were acquired in Apple's AAC format, which will come up with an ".mp4" extension.  Unfortunately, this prevents a seamless transfer as the Zune can't play these, and there are DRM issues as well to contend with.

One possible work around has been known for some time.  The iTunes software allows you to burn tracks in the library onto a CD.  Once that is done, then it can be reripped into a more Zune friendly format.  Personally, I often rip my tracks to 160 kbps, VBR which stands for variable bit recording.  I find that this provides the best combination between file size and audio quality. 

The downside of this is that while it is fine for a CD or two worth of tracks, with a larger collection, it becomes a multiyear project.  You know, the kind of thing that gets started but never finished, and goes on just about forever- not good.  Certainly there must be an easier way...

This article goes through this challenge, and makes a software recommendation.  However, their recommended program goes for $35, which is more than some users may want to go for who don't have large collections.  Thankfully there is a freeware program to the rescue.  I can recommend Free M4a to MP3 converter.  It is quite fast, and does the job quickly without lots of bells and whistles to get in the way of efficiency.

Armed with the above info, now Zune users can dump their iTunes tracks into their Zune software with minimal effort.

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Microsoft Plans a Fix


With the dismal sales numbers from the holiday season, the Zune team is definitely having a big time huddle over the last several weeks.  While we can all blame a lukewarm economy heading South, there are also fundamental issues.  Take a look at this analysis, and head on back for some further discussion.

I think Microsoft made a good product in the Zune.  The hard drive based Zunes, 80 and 120 gigs strong, are very good products.  They are well made, easy to control, and have decent battery lives.  The LCD screens are wasted on just music as many of us use them for.  The Zune software is good enough that folks don't complain about it anymore.  I use it often and it's stable and capable.

The flash based Zunes are decent, but not spectacular in a crowded field.  They're pretty enough, but there's too much competition.  Here Apple gets the vote of the kids that buy into their ads marketing, and SanDisk gets the dollars from the spendthrifts seeking good value.  It would seem that Zune suffers from "me too" syndrome among this market segment, that it can't find its niche in.

However, Microsoft has made one serious mistake here.  They targeted the iPod Classic, which is yesteryear's iPod.  It also is not selling  spectacularly well.  It's pretty clear that if you want to dethrone the leader, you need to attack their best selling flagship product- the iPod Touch.  No point in going after second best, right?  Heck, I own a Zune 80, and I keep debating if I could use an iTouch as a PDA to replace my Palm T/X, and I don't even buy any Apple products!

If the Zune team wants to seriously get back into this race, they shoud all figure out the weaknesses of the iTouch be scouring the forums.  They also need to use it themsleves, and only then can they build a better Zune.  It's lousy to see the Zune, which pioneered wireless in a music player, get beat on their own turf.

While the zPhone is dead, will there be an iZune instead

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Obama Zune Usage Still Unsettled

Dnczune So, Obama gets spotted with a Zune, the blogosphere jumps all over it, and his administration denies it.  I thought this issue was all settled, and Obama was back to being an iPod sort of guy.  Even this article from today goes along with the theory that the original reporter didn't know what he was looking at, or that the Zune definitely was not Obama's.  Done deal?  Not by a longshot!

Apparently, during the Democratic National Convention, there was a giveaway of the Zune variety.  The Dem faithful not only got to promote their nominee to candidate, but they got some giveaways as well.  In their goody bag was a Zune of all things, loaded up with some exclusive content.  No word if "Happy Days Are Here Again," or "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" were among the preloaded tracks.  However, the latest theory is that Obama got the Zune, a special edition model no less, from this "un-conventional" source.

Is this now the final word?  Honestly, I don't know.  Every time I think this story is over, some other detail shakes out so stay tuned on this one.  I don't know about you, but getting a free Zune just might make sitting through one of those conventions worthwhile!

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Obama Denies Zune Usage

Barack hasn't taken office yet, and is already in the middle of a scandal, of the mp3 variety.  While he apparently is an avid Mac fan, he was spotted yesterday with a Zune... reportedly.  For 24 hours, the blogosphere was lit up regarding the incoming President's music player choice.  After all, could the liberal Obama really use a corporate Microsoft product?  I hadn't really thought about it, but perhaps folks had been reading too much into the iPod choice, and now they were already disillusioned?  While it was hardly grounds for well, anything, this went so far as the Wall Street Journal calling the story ZuneGate.  Now maybe they just wanted to get everyone's minds off the lousy stock market, but an Obama spokesperson actually wanted to set the record straight, and let the American people that Obama uses an iPod.  Meanwhile, the reporter that broke the story is sticking to his guns, and suggests that perhaps Obama was borrowing the Zune from his entourage for the workout.

What does this mean for the future of this country?  Well, in all likelihood nothing either way, but I can't resist a president "Getting into the social," and enabling their wireless sharing at the inauguration.

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President Elect Spotted With Zune

Obamawantsyoutosignupforobamarama Regardless of who you voted for, the blogosphere is abuzz regarding a certain President Elect, and a piece of electronics.  Namely, the next President, Obama, was spotted in the city of brotherly love with a Zune.  What is even further intriguing is that reportedly this guy is a mac guy, and the Zune doesn't support the computers of the Macosphere, better known as OS X.  How he got the music on there remains a mystery, but rumors of dual booting abound.  Personally, I'd bet that if this guy gets his own chef, pilot, and security force, I'm sure someone can manage to load up his music player of choice for him.  Think really different?

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Cesar Menendez adds further confirmation of the upcoming Zune 120

120gb_zune_fcc Of course, we have already seen the FCC approval come in, which typically means that we will see a production model hit the market in the future, but still, its always nice to get some additional confirmation.

So after the FCC image made its way around the blogosphere, Cesar Menendez was kind enough to come forward with the following statement;

"You've probably all seen about 120GB @the FCC- and just wanted to send you a note to confirm that is indeed part of the plan. There's definitely more details coming in the way of new software and hardware, pricing etc."

Basically he has confirmed that there will be a 120GB model Zune, along with some new software coming in the future, however was are still unsure of any further details or pricing. We have heard of a rumored release in November 2008, but as of now it is nothing more than a rumor. Lets just hope the new Zune 120 will be priced competitively.

Any current Zune users looking to upgrade? Personally I have been more than happy with my Zune 80 and most likely will hold off.


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120GB Zune hits the FCC, receives its approval

120gb_zune_fcc Its always fairly safe to assume that any portable media player will eventually be upgraded with a larger storage option. So now we know that Microsoft has been working on a larger capacity Zune, but the question still remains when they plan on releasing it.

While this latest FCC leak does not come with much surprise, it does come with a little disappointment. I suppose we cannot always expect a new or updated model to have a new look, but at the same time you cannot help but feel a little let down.

Anyway the latest Zune has received its FCC approval and it is sporting a 120GB hard drive, but the outer case is the same as the current Zune 80. It even has a standard firmware and was tested with version 2.5 (1614).

Again, this is just an FCC approval, Microsoft has not made any official announcement as to when we can expect to see this hit the market. Although the price still remains a mystery, it is being rumored to be coming in at $299, which would made sense when compared to its largest competitor, the iPod which has the 80GB model retailing for $249.

Aside from the possibility of some new exterior colors, this seems to be just a bump in storage, for me I can live with my 80GB model, but I am sure there are plenty of people itching for more storage that will be happy to see this.


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