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Zune apocalypse
December 31, 2008 9:00 AM   Subscribe

So you've decided that you're uneasy with Apple's virtual monopoly on digital music. So you picked Microsoft's Zune. Hell, maybe you even got a tattoo! You're bucking the trend, and you're satisfied with your purchase. It's not like Microsoft would make a faulty machine, would they? Well...Happy New Year!
posted by yellowbinder (194 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
You realize your FPP will only be relevant to about 3 people, right? And those three won't cop to having a Zune anyway. (Though between you and me they'll be the next three people that comment.)
posted by Manhasset at 9:04 AM on December 31, 2008


Apparently it took Microsoft nine years to finally ship those Y2K bugs.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:06 AM on December 31, 2008 [73 favorites]


You realize your FPP will only be relevant to about 3 people, right? And those three won't cop to having a Zune anyway.

Hardly. Now I have another reason to feel smug about owning iPods.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:06 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apple has a virtual monopoly on digital music?

That will come as news to these guys.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:06 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


So you've decided that you're uneasy with Apple's virtual monopoly on digital music.

Correct, more or less.

So you picked Microsoft's Zune.

Incorrect.
posted by DU at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2008 [7 favorites]


It's funny that the best things that Microsoft has produced quality-wise are its mice and keyboards, all from the Microsoft Hardware division. But then again, Microsoft Hardware didn't try to take market shares on the entertainment market but spitting out sub-par products.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:10 AM on December 31, 2008


Another thread in the Zune.net forums is already calling for compensation from Microsoft over the issue in the form of free Zune Passes or album downloads. One user even went so far as to suggest the option of a free iPod touch

Ha! They do realize that this is Microsoft we're talking about, right? When you have a horrible problem with a Microsoft product, the best possible outcome is that some sort of hacky workaround fixes the problem. If I got free Apple stuff every time something from Microsoft failed spectacularly, I could open my own Apple Store.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:11 AM on December 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


I've been debating myself all morning as to whether or not to make an FPP about this. I noticed it this morning on Reddit, then messaged a friend of mine who has a Zune. I wrote 'Hey, how's your Zune this morning?' and he wrote back 'WTF? Why is it not working?' to which I replied 'AAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA' because I'm a dick. I think this is hilarious, but that's probably just because I too am an Ipod fanboy. I can't wait to see what made all the Zunes freeze up and I'm also excited to see what Microsoft does about it.
posted by Bageena at 9:14 AM on December 31, 2008 [10 favorites]


Serious question here: can someone tell me whence this iPod/Zune binary came? Last time I paid a visit to my local electronics store I saw .mp3 players from a dozen different companies. Is there something about either the iPod or the Zune that makes them extra special?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:15 AM on December 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


One disgruntled company's unfounded lawsuit does not a virtual monopoly make.
posted by Aquaman at 9:16 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, Microsoft bashing. It's like 1999 all over again.

How's Moble Me working out again?
posted by delmoi at 9:17 AM on December 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


So they issue a new firmware. Big whoop.
posted by Big_B at 9:18 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is there something about either the iPod or the Zune that makes them extra special?

Everyone loves the iPod because it's from Apple, and everyone loves to hate the Zune, because it's from Microsoft. I wouldn't buy either, frankly.
posted by delmoi at 9:18 AM on December 31, 2008


Maybe virtual monopoly is a bit strong, there are certainly many other players and music sources. But I'd wager anything that for the average consumer, iTunes is the beginning and the end of legit music downloads.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:19 AM on December 31, 2008


Programming is hard.
posted by tcv at 9:20 AM on December 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


y30g
posted by netbros at 9:20 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a problem with my iTouch where it seemed to stop working (wouldn't acknowledge any input) for a few minutes last week. After about 5 minutes, it just magically rebooted itself and everything was fine. So any device can have problems with it and Microsoft will probably sort this.

I still feel smugly superior though.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2008


Well, yes, there is something about BOTH that make them special. Obviously, when Microsoft messes up it's a bigger deal than when Sandisk messes up. And Apple controls something insane like 70% of the MP3 player market. Let's not be disingenuous.
posted by proj at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2008


It just occurred to me: The common wisdom is that there are very, very few Zune users. At least this tells Microsoft exactly how many are out there!
posted by tcv at 9:21 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Serious question here: can someone tell me whence this iPod/Zune binary came?

Apple and Microsoft spend much, much more on marketing than smaller MP3 player companies. Probably more than all of the others combined.

Honestly, this kind of excitement just makes me want a Zune more, but I'm probably one of the few people for whom the PC and Mac commercials backfired, because John Hodgman's nerdy PC guy is infinitely more interesting, funny and intelligent a character than Justin Long's vacuous prettyboy Mac guy.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:24 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


ZUUUUUNE!!!!!!! ZUUUUUNE!!!!!!!
posted by Joe Beese at 9:27 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


So you've decided that you're uneasy with Apple's virtual monopoly on digital music. So you picked Microsoft's Zune.

If you don't know what you're doing and think that having an iPod requires you to buy tracks from Apple's online store, you deserve the broken piece of shit you bought from Microsoft.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:27 AM on December 31, 2008 [11 favorites]


Is there something about either the iPod or the Zune that makes them extra special?
I really hope the extra special something is cancer.
Sorry, but everyone at work has either ipod or iphone earbuds in constantly (with the wires run on the inside of their shirt), I'm constantly have to restate questions after the they unplug or having someone walk up next to me and say "Hi, how is it going" and only after I answer do I realize they just called some one on their iphone.
posted by 445supermag at 9:31 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


The biggest plus for the Zune is ZunePass, which is a subscription model music service, where you have access to ANYTHING in the library, but only so long as you pay your monthly fee; music sold like cable TV. They also offer individual track sales, just like iTunes, that survive the end of your subscription.

iTunes is all ala-carte sales. You can only listen to stuff that you pick and pay for, but it's always yours.

Both libraries overlap a great deal, but iTunes has a longer history with the indies and smaller labels. Both allow the music labels to restrict certain tracks to only be sold as part of a full album. And both leave you with a library of music that could effective go away if the authentication servers ever go offline, because both services are wrapped in DRM. They both have huge analog holes, with attendant automated tools for unlocking your content, at the cost of fidelity. The legality of doing so is murky. I know at least one subscription service VP who believes it is actually legal and allowed, but I suspect there are far more label VPs who'd disagree.

My personal hate-on for the Zune stems from the decision to break plays-for-sure to create a walled kingdom for themselves. I have a dozen plays-for-sure media devices that I got during my digital media tenure, that could have worked with the ZunePass service, instead I have to use them with Rhapsody.
posted by nomisxid at 9:32 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


I rarely chime in on these weird Apple/Microsoft debates, but delmoi, while I'm sure there are people out there that like the iPod merely because it's an Apple product, but it's highly improbable that the iPod has between 70-75% marketshare on name basis alone. While I acknowledge that there have been iPod problems and maybe it doesn't play the codecs that some people want, maybe, just maybe, some people think they're just good products?
posted by booticon at 9:34 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


And both leave you with a library of music that could effective go away if the authentication servers ever go offline, because both services are wrapped in DRM.

Unless you buy legal MP3s from Amazon, Bleep, etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:34 AM on December 31, 2008


Google trends is pretty funny today. I count 15 popular Zune-related searches. I guess more people were "welcomed to the social" than I thought.
posted by mike_bling at 9:35 AM on December 31, 2008


That will come as news to these guys.
More like those guys will come as news to virtually everyone who owns an iPod.

Monopoly? Maybe not. Marketshare to dwarf the Walkman at its height? Oh yes.
posted by bonaldi at 9:36 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've had the same iRiver for years and watched so many of my friends' iPod's fall by the wayside.

As far as I know they (iRiver's) are now pretty much obsolete outside of Asia. Not sure what I'll do when this one finally dies. I couldn't see buying either an iPod or a Zune though .... there's something deep inside that compels me to go for third party apps, and thus my mp3 player has to work with Linux.
posted by mannequito at 9:39 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


As of Q1 2008, the iPod indeed had a 71% share. iTunes has 70% of the digital music market, and 12.6% of the entire US music market.
posted by yellowbinder at 9:40 AM on December 31, 2008


Wow, that guy really did get a Zune tattoo.

Wow.
posted by juliplease at 9:49 AM on December 31, 2008


Doesn't Obama use a Zune?

Boy, I wouldn't want to be the person at Microsoft that has to take that tech-support call.

"Uh, sir I have the president elect on the phone and he wants to speak with my supervisor. He said something about 'making his first executive decision' and was asking a secret service agent when he gets 'the football'. I think you better take this..."
posted by quin at 9:49 AM on December 31, 2008 [11 favorites]


More like those guys will come as news to virtually everyone who owns an iPod.

My wife conforms to your stereotype. [She also has a primitive fear of giving up her AOL e-mail account. Yeesh.] And she still uses the phrase "stealing music" unironically. But even she's starting asking me, "Can you get me this album?" So the tide may be turning.

That said: I love the new iPod Classic I got yesterday (and am listening to copyright-infringed music with as I type) with the heat of 1,000 suns - and it's got nothing to do with being an Apple fanboy [I walked away from Macs years ago and never regretted it for a moment] or a trendoid [these things are old hat now, aren't they?]. It's just that it's as perfect a piece of design as anything I've ever owned. It works.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:50 AM on December 31, 2008


flagged as schadenfreude.
posted by desjardins at 9:51 AM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, that guy really did get a Zune tattoo.

That's old news. I think he has 3 or 4 now. No, really.
posted by Manhasset at 9:54 AM on December 31, 2008


Stand alone mp3 players are pretty much obsolete now anyway. Most phones sold now play mp3s.
posted by euphorb at 9:55 AM on December 31, 2008


I've owned an iRiver player, a Neuros, and an iPod. The iPod is the only one that was worth a damn. I held off for a while because of lousy experiences with Apple in the past, and I still have no intention of ever buying a Mac. But I love the iPod. Just a datapoint.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:56 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Most phones sold now play mp3s.

That's exactly how I use my Sony Ericsson. I can also watch videos and, thanks to the flash drive jack, movies as well.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:59 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yup, Its all about the music player and not about any of the music that's on it. I really miss being able to stare at that amazing menu system now that my Zune is broken.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:00 AM on December 31, 2008


Wow, an update on Zune Tattoo guy! He had three Zune tattoos, considered changing his name to Microsoft Zune, but eventually broke ties, citing amongst other things the superiority of the iPhone and PSP. He's getting the tattoo covered up, and has a new obsession.

My man's sleeping a few feet away after a long flight, or I'd watch more of his videos. How are his movie reviews?
posted by yellowbinder at 10:02 AM on December 31, 2008


Most phones sold now play mp3s.

It won't stop there.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:02 AM on December 31, 2008


It REALLY must be a slow news day when this story pops up on the feeds of WIRED, ArsTechnica, Slashdot, MSNBC, and Metafilter... *sigh* Happy New Year everybody.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 10:03 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have a friend who got a Zune after his iPod died. He wanted to support another mega-company, and was enjoying his Zune enough to tell others of his switch. I don't have the heart to inquire about how it's doing. I really liked the interface, though I'm not sure if I was dazzled by the flashiness, or enjoyed the function.

For those looking to support someone besides Apple, there's Anything but iPod - the site has a fairly nicecomparison section, though the intent is to get you a list of products you'll like, not compare the final two you're thinking of getting. There are PLENTY of options besides iPods and the Zune, and many support a wider range of formats. And if you're feeling adventurous, there's Rockbox open source jukebox firmware (for Archos, iAudio, iriver, iPod, and a few other product lines).

I've had two iPods - a Mini and a Classic. I won the Mini, but payed for the Classic, back when it was one of the best options for storage space. My wife has a Creative ZEN Vision:M, which has a better screen, but an annoying interface (coming from the iPod). From my experiences, the iPod interface is intuitive, and pretty easy to get around. The others I've seen seem a bit convoluted, which may come with offering more features.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:04 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Eh, I think it would make news almost any day. It's a massive, simultaneous product failure, and as desjardins points out, people love their Microsoft schadenfreude.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:05 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The perfect end to a perfect year.
posted by Aquaman at 10:08 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I had a problem with my iTouch where it seemed to stop working (wouldn't acknowledge any input) for a few minutes last week. After about 5 minutes, it just magically rebooted itself and everything was fine. So any device can have problems with it and Microsoft will probably sort this.

I still feel smugly superior though.


That's true, but the cool part about this bug is that it appears to have something to do with the date, so every Zune everywhere stopped working at exactly the same time.

Note: I have never touched a Zune. I don't even know if I'd be able to identify one.
posted by odinsdream at 10:09 AM on December 31, 2008


> It's funny that the best things that Microsoft has produced quality-wise are its mice and keyboards

Second that. As much as I rant about Windows and other Redmond-derived software I've owned numerous Microsoft keyboards and trackballs. They're sturdy, highly configurable, friendly to many platforms.

As an iPod and iPhone owner who loves his Zune jokes, the mocking here rubs me the wrong way. I really wish the Zune was successful in its own right rather than something Microsoft's willing to take a loss in just to ensure presence in a market. But, c'mon. The Zune sucks. It's uncool. And now it'll brick on you for no good reason.

Apple's got a great product and it appalls me that nobody else is making anything nearly as good. Microsoft can do better than the Zune, they're failing, and it sucks. Apple doesn't have a monopoly -- there are a lot of competitors, and Apple has a minority share of the portable media player market in some countries. And Apple isn't colluding with the major entertainment conglomerates -- the conglomerates hate dealing with Apple and have made it clear by word and action many times. Apple's not successful because iTunes is fabulous -- it's moribund and increasingly annoys me with its failings and shortcomings.

Apple has an effective monopoly on digital music downloads purely because iPods are very good hardware with very good UIs, have been marketed aggressively, and after five years they're in hands of nearly everybody the United States and Europe who want dedicated portable players. I don't want Apple to be dethroned, crushed, turned out, whatever. I just want more, better, viable competition in portable player markets. Nobody's figured out how yet, not even companies with vastly more resources to throw at the problem than Apple does, and that's sad.
posted by ardgedee at 10:12 AM on December 31, 2008 [10 favorites]


That zune tattoo guy (Steven Smith) got invited to Redmond after his second tattoo, and went on to get a 3rd, only to get them all covered, citing Microsoft's decision "[t]o not include Zune Marketplace or the ability to load videos from Xbox Live to your Zune made [him] finally give up." He first said he would still buy Zunes (plural!), but he might try out the competition. A mere 5 days later, Listening Post followed up with news that Zune Tattoo Guy thought Microsoft is planning to abandon Zune.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:14 AM on December 31, 2008


ftr, i rather like my zune. no problems yet, and i have every song i've ever wanted.
posted by prototype_octavius at 10:14 AM on December 31, 2008


I have an old 40gb iPod, one of the first with the touch-sensitive volume wheel. That was an awesome piece of hardware. But later iPods have gone to shit; they're unreliable and they sound awful. I hooked up my good headphones to my first-gen iPhone once: while mopping up the blood, I vowed never to repeat that particular mistake. This is true on their laptops, too. OS X has an awesome software interface, Core Audio, but Apple ships absolute crap for the DAC, so their laptops sound like shit. They just don't respect their customers; they assume you'll listen to any crappy reproduction and like it. This is probably a Steve thing; contempt for customers is one of his oldest schticks.

I haven't heard a Zune myself, but people who have them and have similar taste in headphones (Sennheiser 600s with an amp) say that the sound quality is excellent. The devices don't do as much as iPods do, but it's strongly claimed that the core functionality, the actual music playing, is better on a Zune, and I don't have any particular reason to doubt that.

I know Apple CAN do good sound. They do know how. They just don't bother, and Microsoft does. Even if the software is a bit inferior, the wide availability of DRM-free MP3s and superior sound reproduction make Zunes a perfectly reasonable choice, and one that you're not locked into, because MP3s play on anything. AAC does not, and DRM-infested AAC is a particular mess.
posted by Malor at 10:14 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


while I'm sure there are people out there that like the iPod merely because it's an Apple product, but it's highly improbable that the iPod has between 70-75% marketshare on name basis alone. While I acknowledge that there have been iPod problems and maybe it doesn't play the codecs that some people want, maybe, just maybe, some people think they're just good products?

True, iPods have always been excellent products, but I do think there were factors other than quality that made a difference. When the original iPod first came out, the competition consisted mainly of flash-based mp3 players that could hold less than a full album of songs at decent quality, and big clunky hard drive-based mp3 players. The original iPod was easily the best in terms of quality, but it was more expensive and had less storage space than competing players.

Throughout most of the history of the iPod, it's been a more expensive but higher quality player compared to the rest, but the higher quality doesn't really explain the 70%+ market share. The iTunes store is also often used as an explanation for why the iPod took off, but I'm not sure that's it either. I think Apple's secret weapon was that a lot of loyal Apple customers also tended to be early adopters, and a large number of early adopters is exactly what an mp3 player needed when the iPod first came out. Apple could have never sustained the kind of market share they have without appealing to the mainstream, but I think the biggest key to their success was establishing the market in the first place, which many other companies wouldn't have been able to do even with great products.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:16 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apple's got a great product and it appalls me that nobody else is making anything nearly as good.

It terrifies me because when Jobs goes, Apple probably won't be making anything nearly as good either. Apple works because the techies don't get to be in charge, and because the person in charge is an arsy git who does get it. That's a vanishingly rare combo, especially at Apple's scale. Even Apple fired Jobs, and it barely lived to rue the day

You know there was a huge battle in Apple over the OS for the iPhone? The now-gone head of the iPod division wanted it to be Linux. That's Apple without Jobs. Any board would have signed that off -- "hey, this guy runs the iPod division, we don't want to fuck that up."

A MacBook Performa 7500 2.2/120 is never far away.
posted by bonaldi at 10:18 AM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


the wide availability of DRM-free MP3s and superior sound reproduction make Zunes a perfectly reasonable choice, and one that you're not locked into, because MP3s play on anything.

Including iPods and iPhones.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:20 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


The iPod was well designed the general public and heavily marketed. That's all it took to dominate.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:27 AM on December 31, 2008


A few years ago I was at a gallery opening in Brooklyn. It was packed with beautiful hipsters, all beautifully dressed and beautifully coiffed, sipping on PBR and dancing to the old school rap the DJ was playing. There was art on the walls, most of it pretty good, but it was mainly an opportunity to see and be seen.

I was way out of place.

In the main foyer of the gallery my friends and I were sitting on some couches surrounding a small table. The table was littered with fliers and, very strangely, one Microsoft Zune. It seemed to me to be the elephant in the room, and I just could not figure out why anyone would leave such an expensive piece of electronics unattended in such a big crowd.

My friend, a very attractive, tall, skinny hipster type, eventually picks it up and considers it briefly. It was a novelty, the Zune. Everyone there was no doubt just listening to their iPods on the subway (as I was) and had probably closed their Macbooks as they left their apartments. A year later they would all have iPhones. As soon as he had it in his hands someone leaned out from the group on another couch and said "Can I take a picture of you with that?". My friend shook his head and slowly put it back down on the table.

I had no idea what the hell was going on. I was an unsophisticated rube visiting from Philadelphia, and had never seen anything like this. My friend said "They wanted to use my picture in advertising."

And to me that sums up New York pretty nicely.
posted by deafmute at 10:27 AM on December 31, 2008 [25 favorites]


.... and in following Steven Smith, aka Zune Tattoo Guy, to his new digital media player of choice, it seems he went with an iPod Touch. In that post, he said he'll be keeping the weird guy + bunny tat, but covering the Zune logo with Dick Cheney wearing devil horns with the words, "Worse President Ever", which he admitted is humor lost on the folks in Iowa. He was still thinking of how to mask the "Welcome To The Social" tattoo on his shoulder.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:30 AM on December 31, 2008


Foci for Analysis wrote "It's funny that the best things that Microsoft has produced quality-wise are its mice and keyboards"

Word. Apple's mouse and keyboard designs suck, and their original line of music players (ignoring the touch and iPhone versions) are damn near perfect. They're like the inverse of Microsoft.

euphorb wrote "Stand alone mp3 players are pretty much obsolete now anyway. Most phones sold now play mp3s."

My phone takes phone calls.

Oh sure it does other shit too, but when I want to listen to music I'd rather use the dedicated device with the 30 gig HD than the all-in-one device that has no standard headphone jack and sports a massive 80 mb built-in flash memory. Even including the 1 gb add-on card I put in, that's still a shitload less storage than my 5G iPod. It's also one of the main reasons I won't "upgrade" to a newer player that costs the same as my old one but has a fraction of the storage space. I don't think a touchscreen adds enough to make up for the fact that it won't hold my music library.

When flash memory becomes cheap enough that I can buy a phone with a couple hundred gigs of storage maybe I'll decide an all-in-one is a good idea. Until then, I don't think it's worth the price for what it does. And even then, my first question about the phone will be this: How well does it handle phone calls?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:34 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


The machine stops
posted by bottlebrushtree at 10:40 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh sure it does other shit too, but when I want to listen to music I'd rather use the dedicated device with the 30 gig HD than the all-in-one device that has no standard headphone jack and sports a massive 80 mb built-in flash memory. Even including the 1 gb add-on card I put in, that's still a shitload less storage than my 5G iPod.

Storage is of course the downside of phone-as-mp3 player, in that additional space involves plugging in a pendrive. I suppose it amounts to exactly how much music you need to carry around in your pocket. I use the phone as my mp3 player for bus rides to and from work, for waiting in lines and such. My entire music collection is on my laptop. When I want to switch it up, I plug the phone or the corresponding pendrive into the laptop and move music back and forth pretty painlessly.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:43 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The last post on the Zune Board thread linked in the original article (From a Moderator and "Zune Priest"):

"Please stop making threads regarding frozen Zune 30s.
We are well aware of this issue, but as of yet there are no official fixes or even safe dirty fixes to solve this problem.

We will update you as data rolls in.

It appears that it is related to the hardware clock in the Zune 30. People are reporting that by disabling the Windows Time Service on their PC, resetting the date on their PC (to something like 12/04/2008) , and stopping all Zune-related Windows services (and hard-resetting the Zune device [which involves opening it up]) they are able to get it all working again.
-Via WillysJeepMan @ ZuneScene

However, this method will NOT be endorsed by ZuneBoards as it voids your warranty and can leave your Zune permently disabled.

Stay tuned to ZuneBoards and the Zune Service Status of this page for updates: Zune.net | Support

Update:
Most people seems to agree that this was most likely caused by the leap year.

To follow the topic tracking, and file your own help ticket, please tag on to this thread.

Regards,
The ZuneBoards and the Support Team"
posted by yellowbinder at 10:54 AM on December 31, 2008


Being an "Anything But iPod" home we bought our son a Zune 120 for Christmas to replace his Zen Vision: M (which lost a life or death battle with the washing machine), so I guess I'll fess up to having bought a Zune even if it was a gift. I have no qualms about buying Microsoft, Creative Labs, Sansa,iRiver (yes they're still around and WallyWorld is selling 8 gig iRivers for ~$60) etc... IMHO you get more features for less money. No FM tuner Apple? No SDHC support? Seriously? The iPod is for people who are as concerned about appearances as the music (again, my opinion). For a minute I thought the Touch was pretty cool but then I found out Samsung has a PMP with a haptic touch screen so I may go that route if I get the itch to get a new player. Sorry Apple, I'm just not cool enough for your overpriced, under-featured crippleware.
posted by MikeMc at 10:55 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


After years in the wilderness as an Apple fan, man it's great to be able to not only say that you disagree with some anythingbutipoder's feature-list-checkboxin' opinion, but in addition finally 70% of the market also sees what you've been going on about all this time. Yes, you aren't cool enough! Now go hard-reset yo' bricks.
posted by bonaldi at 11:00 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Consumer electronics should not be at the core of one's identity.
posted by aerotive at 11:00 AM on December 31, 2008 [8 favorites]


Consumer electronics should not be at the core of one's identity.

SILENCE, HERETIC!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:01 AM on December 31, 2008


I own an 8 gig Zune Mini.

I bought it after countless iPod failures. It has not failed me yet.

I am not saying anything else. I am just saying iPod triumphalism is wholly unwarranted, especially when Apple still apparently hasn't figured out how to put a lousy radio in an iPod.
posted by mightygodking at 11:08 AM on December 31, 2008


I am constantly confused by the fact that people are still very concerned about the lack of a bolted-on FM radio for the iPod. (they do sell a headphone radio dongle thing if you care).

Digital music, for me, was sweet, sweet release from the grips of stupid pop-40 radio stations with even stupider announcers, bombastic talk radio, and smarmy obsequious public radio.

I have more music (and podcasts) on my hard drive than I know what to do with, and I don't ever have to listen to a loud, sped up, car or MacDonald's commercial ever again.

Why would anyone willingly go back to that dreck? Why would anyone want to dirty up their [FavoBrand™] mp3 player with that stupid, static-y, dinosaur technology?

It's like complaining that your digital camera doesn't have a built in mimeograph machine.
posted by device55 at 11:09 AM on December 31, 2008 [29 favorites]


Obviously, when Microsoft messes up it's a bigger deal than when Sandisk messes up.

Sandisk doesn't mess up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:10 AM on December 31, 2008


The core of my identity is molten.
posted by oddman at 11:15 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Question on the "Anything but iPod" comparison page: is gapless playback standard on everything now and that's why it's not an option? Or is that not something other people generally care about?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:17 AM on December 31, 2008


Lack of radio in an iPod is a FEATURE.
posted by Manhasset at 11:17 AM on December 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Uh yeah a few months ago my 1st gen nano just refused to turn on or charge. It didn't make the news, though.
posted by melt away at 11:22 AM on December 31, 2008


People are reporting that by disabling the Windows Time Service on their PC, resetting the date on their PC (to something like 12/04/2008) , and stopping all Zune-related Windows services (and hard-resetting the Zune device [which involves opening it up]) they are able to get it all working again.

I bet iPods are starting to look a bit more attractive to those people now.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:23 AM on December 31, 2008


I like my $70 sandisk player, with its expandable memory and yes, its FM radio.

Why would anyone willingly go back to that dreck?

KEXP.
posted by bepe at 11:23 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


but in addition finally 70% of the market also sees what you've been going on about all this time. Yes, you aren't cool enough! Now go hard-reset yo' bricks.

What 70% of the market sees is superlative marketing and the triumph of form over function. I'm dumbfounded by the sheer number of people who actually think Apple invented the MP3 player. I'll freely admit that Apple has come up with some cool shit over the years but the iPod is not one of them.

Why would anyone willingly go back to that dreck? Why would anyone want to dirty up their [FavoBrand™] mp3 player with that stupid, static-y, dinosaur technology?

Sometimes I like to listen to the radio. It's a dinosaur thing, you wouldn't understand.
posted by MikeMc at 11:31 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apple works because the techies don't get to be in charge, and because the person in charge is an arsy git who does get it.

Not to derail too much, but that's my problem with Linux-- I have yet to see a Linux desktop that has a standard user interface out of the box. I want something that just works.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:33 AM on December 31, 2008


KEXP
Heh. Their MP3 stream is sponsored by Microsoft Zune today.

They have a good web site. I'll be sure to check out some of their podcasts: http://kexp.org/podcasting/podcasting.asp
posted by device55 at 11:34 AM on December 31, 2008


Who among us hasn't written faulty firmware for a consumer electronics device? I mean, come on!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:35 AM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


I will die with my bestest imaginary friend, my 80gig iPod Classic, which will be lovingly transporting me to the Afterlife by firing up Fats Domino, Duke Ellington and DJ Heyoka as I get my shit straight with St. Peter.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 11:38 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I thought I wasn't my khakis.

But it turns out that I totally am.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:43 AM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


triumph of form over function
People say this when they really mean "doesn't have my pet feature" or "I hate advertising" "or it's too pretty and I am soooo manly". The iPod is a great example of Form Follows Function.

My first mp3 player was a Creative Nomad Jukebox. This player had a "massive" 6GB hard drive, sucked removable AA batteries dry in minutes and was nearly un-navigatable. To select a song, playlist, or option, you had to operate 4(!) directional buttons placed on opposite sides of the display. It was the size of a conventional portable CD player, if you didn't count the wall charger. Putting the device on shuffle mode was at least 6 menus deep, all on a tiny LCD screen. The volume control was a tiny little thumb wheel buried in a groove off to one side of the device.

However, it did record audio. So that's something.

The original iPod which came out a year later fit nicely in the hand or pocket, was easy to read, and could be operated with one thumb by your grandmother. The biggest, easiest to target control surfaces worked as play/pause and volume. They only got simpler after that.

Your Zune, Sandisk, etc all now follow this form-factor. Screen on top, directional control underneath. Vertical form-factor for easy one-handed operation. And some of them have FM radios.
posted by device55 at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2008 [12 favorites]


I have yet to see a Linux desktop that has a standard user interface out of the box.

What is a "standard user interface?" My computer's interface is somewhat unusual; if it is determined to be non-standard, will I have my computing license revoked? Is that what happened to all of the users of the Canon Cat?
posted by enn at 11:54 AM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher - I think i have the same freexing problem with my iPod, and the same cure of leaving it alone for a bit. Pretty much my one complaint about it.

Sandisk doesn't mess up.

Ha ha ha ha ha... throws dead Mp3 player at civil_disobedient.
posted by Artw at 11:56 AM on December 31, 2008


Not to derail too much, but that's my problem with Linux-- I have yet to see a Linux desktop that has a standard user interface out of the box. I want something that just works.

There are a number of distros I could recommend depending on your system and what you do with it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:58 AM on December 31, 2008


I've found one of two things is necessary for my Touch when it locks up (either a misbehaving app, or some website with some runaway javascript playing poorly):

1) Hold down the home button for 5 seconds to force the OS to kill the current app, which is successful maybe half the time.

2) The rest of the time I have to hold down both home and sleep buttons and give the whole system a power cycle. That seems to happen at a lower level and can usually recover when they OS can't get a kill command in. The downside seems to be that a lot of games keep their current state in a temporary location, so I lose my current hand of Uno. *sniffle*

I think the OS usually manages to figure out that something is misbehaving and kills it, but I'm normally not that patient.
posted by Kyol at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2008


The now-gone head of the iPod division wanted it to be Linux. That's Apple without Jobs.

Is the BSD OS that underlies most of Apple's products somehow less "techie" than the Linux OS?

The techies seem to still be in charge of the important technical decisions at Apple; the only reason they still haven't scared you away is that they're not in charge of marketing.
posted by roystgnr at 12:02 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh god, I had the Nomad Jukebox too. It was impressive as most players at the time had scant megabytes of space, so it was the first time I really felt I could take all my music on the go.

That said, it was a terrible machine. Took forever to boot up, got incredibly hot, and very unreliable. I went through three of them under warranty.

A few years ago I picked up a Samsung with I believe a fairly impressive feature set. But it was hard to use, so when it crapped out in a few months I threw it in a bag, know I still had time to get it replaced (never did).

I admired the design of the iPod, but was far more anti populist at the time than I am now. I went back to the discman.

I finally caved early this year with a 3G nano. I adored it, but spilled some cola in my bag. The screen whited out, but it still worked. I think I kicked it under my desk and forgot about it for a few months.

Then my boyfriend picked it up, it worked fine, and he basically absconded with it.

I eventually ended up with an iPhone. I needed a new phone (Rest well, 1999 Motorola Timeport), and the functionality is nothing to sneeze at. I didn't actually buy it for myself, but yes, I bought into the hype, and probably would have had it not been given to me. It is a wondrous toy. I may chafe at the high monthly bill, but I enjoy it immensely.

As for the reason the iPod has done so well? I've always said it was very simple luck. They hit on the right product at the right time with the right design and the right advertising. The market and the technology were ready for success, and the simple design and attractive ads, combined with the Cult of Apple made it a winner.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:04 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


The original iPod which came out a year later fit nicely in the hand or pocket, was easy to read, and could be operated with one thumb by your grandmother. The biggest, easiest to target control surfaces worked as play/pause and volume. They only got simpler after that.

Your Zune, Sandisk, etc all now follow this form-factor. Screen on top, directional control underneath. Vertical form-factor for easy one-handed operation.


Oddly enough Apple ended up paying Creative Labs $100,000,000 to settle a patent infringement lawsuit over the iPod's UI.
posted by MikeMc at 12:04 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm dumbfounded by the sheer number of people who actually think Apple invented the MP3 player.

They were about 3 years late to the game, but it's completely reasonable for most people to have forgotten the predecessors or to never have heard of them in the first place. For at least a year after the Diamond Rio the various other random early mp3 players came out in 1998, the vast majority of the public had never even heard of mp3 files, let alone hardware to play them.

By late 1999 Napster was starting to become popular and also started getting hit with high-profile lawsuits, which is what really got mp3 files and digital music into the mainstream. Up through 2001, nobody was really talking about existing mp3 players like the Creative Nomad Jukebox outside of a small subset of gadget geeks, and many of them were more the kinds of novelties that you would see in a Sky Mall catalog than a legitimate consumer electronics that you could go to a local Best Buy and pick up.

I owned mp3 players through that whole time period, and many of the people who saw them had no idea what they were. For a variety of reasons, the iPod was the first genuinely popular mp3 player, and a large portion of the population was introduced to the idea of an mp3 player through the iPod, so it makes sense that many people would incorrectly credit Apple with inventing it.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:09 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The original iPod which came out a year later fit nicely in the hand or pocket, was easy to read, and could be operated with one thumb by your grandmother

This. I remember walking down the street with my first iPod in my pocket, flicking through my entire CD collection just by touch and thinking "hot damn, I'm sold."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:10 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do you remember the whole story? Creative had a patent on:
A method of selecting at least one track from a plurality of tracks stored in a computer-readable medium of a portable media player configured to present sequentially a first, second, and third display screen on the display of the media player, the plurality of tracks accessed according to a hierarchy, the hierarchy having a plurality of categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second, and third level of the hierarchy
Basically, they got a (ridiculous) patent on menus before anyone else did. (notice the important part of the hardware design, the clickwheel, was not part of this patent or the settlement)

Apple settled with Creative and then Creative became a licensed creator of iPod accessories.
posted by device55 at 12:14 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Apple ended up paying Creative Labs $100,000,000 to settle a patent infringement lawsuit over the iPod's UI.

From a press release about this:
“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a press release. “

Translated: I'm going to destroy you when no one is watching.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:14 PM on December 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


As far as I know they (iRiver's) are now pretty much obsolete outside of Asia. Not sure what I'll do when this one finally dies. I couldn't see buying either an iPod or a Zune though .... there's something deep inside that compels me to go for third party apps, and thus my mp3 player has to work with Linux.

mannequito I recently had to buy a new mp3 player because my 3 year old $14.00 chiPod finally died, so I went to Walmart, of all places. That had a ton of plug-and-play USB mp3 players, most for well under a hundred bucks, any of which would work with Linux.

Not to derail too much, but that's my problem with Linux-- I have yet to see a Linux desktop that has a standard user interface out of the box. I want something that just works.

I have no idea what a "standard user interface" means. The latest versions of Ubuntu work out of the box, and all of my peripherals (including a canon scanner/printer) worked without driver downloads. The first time you go to play an mp3, it prompts you to download codecs, but clicking "download" is as complicated as it gets.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:15 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


The out-of-theboxyness of Ubuntu means It'll probably be the OS for my next laptop. Prior to that I've had no interest in compiling TAR files or whatever it is linuxy people do.
posted by Artw at 12:22 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am constantly confused by the fact that people are still very concerned about the lack of a bolted-on FM radio for the iPod. (they do sell a headphone radio dongle thing if you care).

NPR, man. NPR. Podcasts just aren't the same.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:26 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ways in which podcasts are not the same as NPR over-the-air.
  • Podcasts can be paused, rewound, and fast-forwarded
  • Podcasts are not bound by a time slot
  • Podcast reception does not drop off when you drive through that tunnel on 26, you know the one.
  • Podcasts are not interrupted by pledge drives
  • Podcasts can have images incorporated into the audio, correlated with the subject being discussed
I'm not saying that there is *no* good radio, it's just that the overall experience of radio is one of such imprisoned suck that the few shining jewels do not redeem it.

This is, of course, merely my opinion. We young whipper-snappers don't appreciate when the only choice was the radio station comin' outta Omaha an' ye had ta' dangle coat hangers on the anteener ta pick up anythin' and evin then it twere scratchy soundin. Kids taday don know how good they gots it.
posted by device55 at 12:34 PM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


Basically, they got a (ridiculous) patent on menus before anyone else did.

I'm not saying the patent isn't ridiculous, it just strikes me as funny seeing as the superiority of the UI is Apple's strongest selling point. On a side note the Creative Zen (my currently player) uses a horizontal form-factor (screen left, controls right).
posted by MikeMc at 12:36 PM on December 31, 2008


I'd love to see the explanation/piece of code responsible for this.
posted by carter at 12:37 PM on December 31, 2008


I have no idea what a "standard user interface" means.

One that doesn't require knowledge of the command line to operate and fix.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:38 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is the BSD OS that underlies most of Apple's products somehow less "techie" than the Linux OS?
Is the whole OS that the BSD's part of somehow less techie than the Linux OS? Why yes, it is. Although I'm sure there's another distro round the corner that's sure to sort that.

The techies seem to still be in charge of the important technical decisions at Apple; the only reason they still haven't scared you away is that they're not in charge of marketing.

See it is precisely this sneering attitude that dooms so many tech companies. Of course techies should be in charge of the important technical decisions, and at Apple they are. It is not a dichotomy. A product that is all marketing is going to fail just as hard (and more publicly) than something that is all tech. If it's all "marketing" (which is usually used by tech snobs as code for "all that humanities shit I refuse to grok") then there'll be no substance, if it's all tech, nobody will care to figure out how to use it.

Apple's successes have been in tying the two together. The original iPod had no wireless and less space than a Nomad, yes, but it wasn't lame because it made using an MP3 player a massively more palatable experience than any thus far. The form and function are symbiotic.

Apple's misses are invariably when they get the balance wrong (eg Apple TV: good interface, desperately weak tech). Jobs's special gift appears to be in striking the balance, most of the time. This is why this

The market and the technology were ready for success, and the simple design and attractive ads, combined with the Cult of Apple made it a winner.

is so wrong. Apple benefits from good ads and the Cult, sure, but that counts for nil when they don't get the product right. The market and technology are equally as ready for a living-room media box as they were for an MP3 player, but nobody's done it right yet. Apple's trying to sell one, and because it's all focused on iTunes Store and not on the things you already own or those that are broadcast, nobody's buying.

The iPod didn't get to the size it is solely by good ads, or by being white, or because of the MacMacs. If it had only been those things, somebody could have just come along with the iPod killer. It'd probably have a radio, too.
posted by bonaldi at 12:41 PM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


It certainly was the strongest selling point 9 years ago when all other MP3 players were garbage by comparison.

In that time Apple has built a huge brand and a market (music, video, accessories, etc) - That's a hard thing to compete against - and it does allow them to get lazy. But back in 2000, the original iPod was only available for Macs. That's a small market today, back then it was miniscule. There were tons of geeks out there hacking and cracking the thing to get it to run on Windows or Linux long before the Windows version was even released.

Now, a decade later, Creative, Microsoft, etc have had time to study the runaway success of the iPod and utilize what works in their own designs. Today's MP3 player market is far superior thanks to the fact that the iPod was such a success - turning a gadget geek toy into a mainstream 'duh everybody's got one' device.

Arguing that iPod's success is simply "form over function" is just plain wrong. The evidence is your sideways Creative Zen. (how does a left handed person use that thing anyway?)
posted by device55 at 12:46 PM on December 31, 2008


Best thing about the iPod touch - it doesn't have the wheel - sorry, I know it's iconic, but endless finger circling through long lists sucked.

The flippy albulm cover thing is like the new wheel, but hey, tilt the screen and it's gone.
posted by Artw at 12:47 PM on December 31, 2008


Serious question here: can someone tell me whence this iPod/Zune binary came?

The 30gb Zune is a gen 1 Zune, which is really just an MS branded Toshiba player. Im guessing the OS is Toshiba's with some tweaks from MS. Considering the rush to market, I dont think MS had much time to write the software from scratch. Regardless, its their problem now.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:51 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's a good point.

As storage capacities increased and more and more files had to be navigated, spinning a little wheel around got to be really hard work - the touch screen interface addresses that pretty nicely. (you can search!)

(who knows how successful it will be in the long run. I sometimes miss the tactility of a click wheel - but I don't miss the long lists )
posted by device55 at 12:57 PM on December 31, 2008


I'm not saying that there is *no* good radio, it's just that the overall experience of radio is one of such imprisoned suck that the few shining jewels do not redeem it.

It's funny, and I feel like I'm unusual for someone my age in this, but I've never felt terribly imprisoned by, say, the radio, or, say, going to a video store or watching television compared to Netflix. Part of what's great about this stuff is variety, about the possibility of being exposed to something you wouldn't otherwise be exposed to. I like discovering new music via NPR or college radio--even though I have a 20 gig music collection, I still get damned sick of it sometimes. Accordingly, I've been listening to pandora a lot lately. I don't mind that my mp3 player has a radio, because it gives me options. I don't think that offering your users options should ever be considered a weakness.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:02 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


My wife and I both got 30GB Zunes for Christmas, and had both of our Zunes shut down this morning. Still doesn't want to make me get an ipod. For one, the latest version of iTunes won't run on my 6 year old computer. Plus, Zune Pass really kicks ass in terms of value, unlimited downloads that are yours as long as you subscribe to the service, with an additional 10 downloads that are yours to keep. So for $15/a month you get 10 songs that belong to you, and access to as many other songs as you want.
posted by drezdn at 1:07 PM on December 31, 2008


> [the Creative patent settlement] strikes me as funny seeing as the superiority of the UI is Apple's strongest selling point.

It was arguably an obvious patent, but to answer your snark directly, this means that the UI is not original and does not reflect on its quality.
posted by ardgedee at 1:11 PM on December 31, 2008


Zune apocalypse

Many Shuvs and Zunes knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!
posted by brundlefly at 1:16 PM on December 31, 2008 [11 favorites]


Disregarding the immutable truth that radio sucks :-)

The reason Apple didn't put a radio on the iPod is because it's a distraction.

In Apple's mind (and the minds of their customers) digital audio and radio are two really different things with two really different use-cases. Whenever you dilute the purpose of a device with multiple functions, you have to make trade offs. Apple decided to focus on making an easy to use MP3 player, because that's the important feature. That's the hard bit. That's the selling point. Lot's of *your* music, easily.

So if you take two functions, like digital audio (selecting and decoding a file on a filesystem) and radio (tuning in an analog radio frequency) and smush them together, you typically end up with one or both features suffering. Either the interface gets more complicated, or the battery life is drained faster, or more likely the radio just sucks and you never use it.

It's like Clock-radios. Have you ever seen, be honest now, a clock radio that didn't suck as a radio or a clock? It was either hard to tune the radio, or hard to set the clock, or impossible to see what station it was one...or something.
posted by device55 at 1:19 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Have you ever seen, be honest now, a clock radio that didn't suck as a radio or a clock?

Sure, my Radio Shock Shortwave/Clock radio... It's the only clock radio that I've ever owned that I can set with my eyes closed. That's probably why I've used it for the past 12+ years or so.
posted by drezdn at 1:26 PM on December 31, 2008


So. One then. Out of thousands (millions?). Which is my point exactly.

/goes off to google this wunderclocken
posted by device55 at 1:30 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Radio is like the second mouse button of iPod.

(And by that logic someday they'll release an iPod capable of receiving all radio stations simultaneously that will be completely unusable)
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


The evidence is your sideways Creative Zen. (how does a left handed person use that thing anyway?)

I don't know (I'm right handed). I think it's oriented sideways with video playback in mind. I think Creative is trying to position their Zen line (the X-Fi in particular) as PMPs more along the lines of the Cowon D2 or Archos players as opposed to your "run of the mill" MP3 player. I tried to find a function to "flip" the screen (like left handers could do with the Atari Lynx) - no luck thus far.
posted by MikeMc at 1:34 PM on December 31, 2008


We young whipper-snappers don't appreciate when the only choice was the radio station comin' outta Omaha an' ye had ta' dangle coat hangers on the anteener ta pick up anythin' and evin then it twere scratchy soundin.

Just checking: a podcast is an mp3 recording of people talking that you download and listen to, right?

It's not that podcasts are so innovative. It's that they're so pedestrian. A radio show is a live broadcast of an event that if happening right now being beamed into your home. A podcast is a digital recording that someone put on the internet of some guy saying over the course of an hour what you could have read in 10 minutes.

But hey, maybe there are people who enjoy watching a recording of yesterday's football game, too.

Mostly, though, I agree with what you said about single-function devices. However, don't confuse podcasts as any sort of substitute for radio.
posted by deanc at 1:36 PM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


The advantage of an mp3 player that can receive radio is for work out places that offer television audio on the lower FM frequencies. If you have your mp3 player with you, you can easily pick up the tv station if you're interest (or listen to NPR or whatever). While most may have not worked as well as a dedicated FM radio, it's easier to just have one device (maybe I should dig out the old iRiver until zunepocalypse ends).
posted by drezdn at 1:37 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also repeated arguments that radio is a UI faliure, despite every other player in the market managing to have them - (see above). Fortunately thus far they have not produced an iPod equivalent of the round mouse.
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on December 31, 2008


could be operated with one thumb by your grandmother

Sadly, my grandmother had no thumbs.
posted by stargell at 1:39 PM on December 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


I had two iPods (4th gen, I believe, right before the ones with the color screens came out) break on me within a year. I then bought a Cowon X5, after months (well, a week or so) of research and I loved it until the battery wouldn't hold a charge anymore. I've been happy with the cheap little Sansa players I've bought after that. I realized I didn't need to be carting around my entire music collection around all the time.

If an iPod works for you, that's great. I eye them sometimes but I don't know if I'll buy another. I will allow that my bad experience was my own bad experience -- I've known plenty of people who've had iPods for 5 years and they still work (and another person who breaks them/wears them out so often, he's pretty much friends with the guys at the Apple store).

I've actually looked into the possibility of buying a Zune, if I ever want a larger player (although the 32 gb flash players out there have been tempting). This news doesn't necessarily turn me off to it -- no more than anything else. I know that iPods also have their idiosyncrasies (I also knew someone who'd actually throw his on the floor to get it to work). All MP3/PMP have their good and bad points. One is no better than the other except when it comes to personal preference, in my opinion.
posted by darksong at 1:41 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


"It's like Clock-radios. Have you ever seen, be honest now, a clock radio that didn't suck as a radio or a clock? It was either hard to tune the radio, or hard to set the clock, or impossible to see what station it was one...or something."

I'll grant that, for the sake of argument, but you might feel differently if you had to carry either a clock radio or a clock and a radio around with you all day.

(I still went with an iPhone, though. I don't need a radio, but I need my phone.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 1:45 PM on December 31, 2008


You know, if you want to analyze the reasons for the success of the iPod (and failure of Zune), you might want to start with time to market and exclusive contracts. The first ipods were made with brand new tiny hard drive technology, exclusively secured by Jobs. This is why people went out of their way to "hack" compatibility for it.

It's not that Jobs is a superior designer of things, but a seemingly superior negotiator and businessman. He negotiated the drive deal, the recording company contracts, AT&T opening their network a bit for the iPhone, etc. Hell, he negotiated his old job back when they fired him and later bought his NeXT company.

Without Jobs, Apple will continue to have good designs and solid technical underpinnings, but it won't be enough without some sort of exclusive advantage.
posted by pwnguin at 1:46 PM on December 31, 2008


2) The rest of the time I have to hold down both home and sleep buttons and give the whole system a power cycle. That seems to happen at a lower level and can usually recover when they OS can't get a kill command in. The downside seems to be that a lot of games keep their current state in a temporary location, so I lose my current hand of Uno. *sniffle*

You're losing your hand because you're performing a hard reset. You should just hold the power button, not home and power, for a few moments.
posted by Mikey-San at 1:50 PM on December 31, 2008


So for $15/a month you get 10 songs that belong to you, and access to as many other songs as you want.

emusic lets you keep 20 non-drm downloads a month for $11. Or 50 a month for $18. Or 75 for $24. That's about 30 cents a track and they don't expire and will play on any mp3 player. Plus 50 free for signing up and 1 free audiobook.

Yeah, the Zune thingy sounds like a deal, but only in relation to iTMS. That ain't hard though, when iTMS is a ripoff no matter what you compare it to.
posted by Manhasset at 1:53 PM on December 31, 2008


Fortunately thus far they have not produced an iPod equivalent of the round mouse.
I dunno, the iPod shuffle is pretty shit. But I liked the round mouse, after they added the dimple.

The first ipods were made with brand new tiny hard drive technology, exclusively secured by Jobs.
No they weren't. They were made with unexclusive, newish, 1.8" Toshiba drives. Those were already in use by the SmartDisk FireLite among others. The hacks were because original iPod was Mac-only in a big way. It wasn't until 2002 that you could use it with Windows, using MusicMatch. iTunes for Windows didn't come along until the end of 2003.

That's an achingly long time in tech land, but still nobody had bothered limbering up to try and stop them until it was too late. Why not? Because iPod was bound to fail: it didn't have a radio, or USB, and other people already had players coming out with those features and more that people would undoubtedly flock to even if they weren't as "pretty". Features matter most, right? Oops.
posted by bonaldi at 1:56 PM on December 31, 2008


-So for $15/a month you get 10 songs that belong to you, and access to as many other songs as you want.

-emusic lets you keep 20 non-drm downloads a month for $11. Or 50 a month for $18. Or 75 for $24. That's about 30 cents a track and they don't expire and will play on any mp3 player. Plus 50 free for signing up and 1 free audiobook.


Google lets you download and own any song you want, for free.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:58 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Google "iPod Failures". Guess what? They've had a lot of hardware problems over the years! Amazing, I know.

130+ comments largely centered around Microsoft bashing of a product 99% of you have never used? LOL.

[Yes, I have a Zune, it works fine, etc. I dislike Apple's business practices (one of the few computer companies LESS open than Microsoft, after all), and it's the best alternative.]
posted by wildcrdj at 2:28 PM on December 31, 2008


I dunno, the iPod shuffle is pretty shit.
I loves my little Shuffle for a long run. Just clip it to my shirt and go.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:35 PM on December 31, 2008


I purchased an iPod Touch the other day. I feel its haptic (touch screen/accelerometer) interface is well-executed and will soon lead to some very interesting software. Also, I expected such a device would be a damn fine media player, given the computational power in it, the huge battery, and Job's obsessions toward quality end-user experiences.

It sucks. I will be making every attempt to return it for a full refund.

Problem #1 is that it suffers audio dropouts at random when playing lossless audio. I see no reason I should be using lossy compression when I've 32Gb of storage. That's days and days worth of listening, in what should be perfect sound through high-end headphones. But, nooooo, Apple screws the pooch and can't play its own lossless format.

Problem #2 is that it turns out the D/A conversion and amplification are actually pretty shitty in an iPod. Which kind of ruins the purpose of using lossless compression and high-end phones.

I'm expected to pay a premium for this flawed device? Sorry, Apple, but that just doesn't work for me. I'm getting either a Cowan, for their truly superlative audio output; or an Archos, for a big leap in functionality. Either one will give me far more bang for my buck.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:35 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Artw I'm not saying that the addition of a radio is a UI failure, but it is definitely a cost or a trade off.

Adding a radio to an MP3 player increases cost of manufacture and increases complexity of use in exchange for a negligible (hypothetical) benefit.

A radio is clearly not a make-or-break feature for an Mp3 player. The iPod juggernaut is proof of this. Most people (the 70% who are buying iPods) just don't care that much about radio. It's a niche feature. Other manufacturers all include a radio, because it's one of the few ways they can differentiate themselves from Apple, and it hasn't helped them much in the marketplace.

Apple, in my opinion, was wise to not bother with a radio. Nobody cares (statistically). Why junk up the device, and put money and time into something nobody (statistically) wants?

Tacking radios to mp3 players is just like the Zune 'squirt' feature. A corporate team-building exercise in missing the boat.
posted by device55 at 2:39 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Emusic also bills as a subscription and has a limited catalog. I'm a long time user, mind you, but my hard drive crashed and what with rebuilding my computer I didn't use it for a couple months. I'm tired of the subscription model, especially with new channels on somafm.
posted by Wood at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2008


The advantage of an mp3 player that can receive radio is for work out places that offer television audio on the lower FM frequencies.

Or, as deanc points out, you can listen to live sports coverage.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2008


You're losing your hand because you're performing a hard reset. You should just hold the power button, not home and power, for a few moments.

Actually, home+sleep tends to pop up the slide to power off screen briefly before it goes all the way to a hard shutdown, so I figure I save the trouble of doing both actions. Either it's so wedged that it has to hard reset, or it'll respond enough to permit a sleep/wake cycle. And checking further, it seems like that was a first-generation software issue, too. Bejeweled 2 loses state through a hard reset, Uno doesn't. But point taken.
posted by Kyol at 2:40 PM on December 31, 2008


They've had a lot of hardware problems over the years!

Not as attention getting though. It's newsmaking when a product has such a massive failures all at once.

My first iPod failed outta the box (a refurbished model), I was so pissed. I called up Apple that afternoon and the pleasant guy on the other end overnighted me a replaced iPod and shipping materials to send the defective iPod back. The new iPod arrived in the morning and I was impressed with the level of service. Failure is one thing, but how a company responds to failure says a lot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:42 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's newsmaking when a product has such a massive failures all at once.

Perhaps, but the number of people affected by this is probably much smaller than some of the past iPod issues.

And as far as response, Microsoft's response to the 360 failures was quite good, at least in my case -- mailed me a box, I put it in, they mailed me a new one, no hassles.

But really, the tone of the writeup is clearly LOLMICROSOFT and not a serious discussion of the failure or anything.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:47 PM on December 31, 2008


Adding a radio to an MP3 player increases cost of manufacture and increases complexity of use in exchange for a negligible (hypothetical) benefit.

I don't know, it seems to me that radios are pretty simple and cheap to make, since I can buy one from Big Lots for four bucks. It seems to me that most people don't care about the presence of a radio because they're buying for the brand/prestige, and not for the actual features. They want an iPod because they assume that all mp3 players are like iPods, and that the most popular is simply the best of the bunch. But I highly doubt that the people with other mp3 players mind the added functionality of a radio, even if they're not buying specifically because of that feature.

I loves my little Shuffle for a long run. Just clip it to my shirt and go.

Stylin'!

But seriously, I had a shuffle that someone got me for a gift that I used for about a year, before I got a generic mp3 player for a quarter of the price. One that actually showed me the names of the songs that were playing. Oh, and had a radio, in the event that I wanted to listen to random music shuffled around while having no control over the order of the songs. How innovative!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:49 PM on December 31, 2008


However, don't confuse podcasts as any sort of substitute for radio
I feel like people's descriptions of live radio are much like people's descriptions of independent bookstores: largely fictional.

Yes, there are still great radio shows around, just like there are great independent bookstores, but the occurrence of each is rare. And hell, every third "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" is a pre-recorded clip show.

In practice, I won't make time to play radio dial roulette in hopes that I hit something that doesn't make me cringe.
posted by device55 at 2:55 PM on December 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


Zune issue solved. It will resolve itself at noon tomorrow:
Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used). The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. The issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009. We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on. If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device.

http://forums.zune.net/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=408989
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:56 PM on December 31, 2008


Go with Sansa, people. You can buy albums on microSD cards for the same price as on the apple store, and you get a free microSD card!
posted by tehloki at 3:02 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


The advantage of an mp3 player that can receive radio is for work out places that offer television audio on the lower FM frequencies.

Got AOL Radio on my iTouch and that works great.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:03 PM on December 31, 2008


I'm expected to pay a premium for this flawed device? Sorry, Apple, but that just doesn't work for me. I'm getting either a Cowan, for their truly superlative audio output; or an Archos, for a big leap in functionality. Either one will give me far more bang for my buck.

Yes, but how does it sound when connected to your gold-plated Monster cables?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:14 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


The vitriol people are spewing at each other over this is pretty sad. Who cares what brand it is, if it works and does what you want? I'm sorry for the people who want to use their Zunes but can't right now. At least it looks like they will be fixed shortly.

I had an original iPod that I got for Christmas, but I would never have purchased one for myself. I liked it enough that I ended up buying an iPod touch, and I can't live without it now. Maybe it "sucks" if you care about perfect audio, but the audio and video quality is perfectly fine for me. I feel pretty much the same about my husband's Zune. It works (or did, his is bricked too atm) for what he wants it to do. My parents have Creative Zen's, and they use them and like them. Everyone has different needs and wants. I am just happy that there are so many different ones out there that everyone can find one they like.
posted by gemmy at 3:14 PM on December 31, 2008


A radio is clearly not a make-or-break feature for an Mp3 player. The iPod juggernaut is proof of this. Most people (the 70% who are buying iPods) just don't care that much about radio.

iPod users don't care so much that Apple introduced a $49.00 FM radio add-on for no reason whatsoever? It may not have a huge user base but enough that Apple felt compelled to offer it. I think we can assume that the aftermarket iPod FM tuners aren't being made just for the hell of it either.

Adding a radio to an MP3 player increases cost of manufacture and increases complexity of use in exchange for a negligible (hypothetical) benefit.

And yet iPods still cost more than comparable players from other companies that do include tuners.

Someone upthread mentioned the Shuffle, you can get a 4gb Sansa Clip with a display (not to mention the FM tuner and FLAC and OGG support ) for the same price as a 1gb Shuffle. That's a huge disparity and that's where Apple fails (again, my opinion). Where is the customer value proposition in buying an iPod and getting less storage and fewer features @ the same or even higher cost?
posted by MikeMc at 3:22 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


130+ comments largely centered around Microsoft bashing of a product 99% of you have never used? LOL.

You should see the thread where they decalred Windows 7 a faliure.
posted by Artw at 3:32 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


device55, don't be telling me what young whippersnappers want! I'm 25. So there. *crosses arms*

Radio has something that podcasts can't quite match - I think it's partly the chance factor, being able to turn on a radio for random background noise and then catching some gem on a program you never would have thought to download.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:45 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that most people don't care about the presence of a radio because they're buying for the brand/prestige, and not for the actual features.

It seems to me that you're talking out of your ass with your data point of one: you.

Here, I'll do the same: I don't want a radio in my mp3 player. I shut off my radio in the 80s and have never turned it back on. I'm delighted that they don't offer a radio. I got tired of looking like an idiot in the 80s and 90s when I went to the store to buy a walkman or a minidisc player and asked, specifically, to look at the models that didn't have a radio. It's not something I would ever use; I don't care how cheap it is for them to put it in.

I don't want a radio in my mp3 player for the same reason I don't want a cassette deck in my turntable. I don't use it and if it should ever break, it may affect the parts that I do use. I don't want things in my things that when they break affect the things in my things that I do want.

It it really that difficult for you to accept that other people don't want the same thing that you want? Guess what: I don't have a car or a girlfriend either. It's the opposite of prestige: I don't give a shit what you think of me if it's based on what I have.
posted by Manhasset at 5:44 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Apparently, the Zune takes 7x24x365 support very literally
posted by MrGuilt at 5:52 PM on December 31, 2008 [9 favorites]


you can get a 4gb Sansa Clip with a display (not to mention the FM tuner and FLAC and OGG support )

Don't care about any of those things, 'cept the display.


That's a huge disparity and that's where Apple fails (again, my opinion). Where is the customer value proposition in buying an iPod and getting less storage and fewer features @ the same or even higher cost?

Having a screen on my first gen shuffle definitely would have been nice and why one wasn't added to the 2nd gen is strange as hell, but I'd still stick with a first gen iPod over the Sansa for the intergration with iTunes.

Some people love having features. Others are happy with less features if what remains concentrates on what they want it to do. It's nice that the Sansa has voice recorder, but I don't use one and don't feel the need for one.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:54 PM on December 31, 2008


It seems to me that you're talking out of your ass with your data point of one: you.

Sorry, but I was actually thinking of my mother, who refers to her creative mp3 player as an "iPod" and my sister, who couldn't understand why I would want an mp3 player with a display rather than an iPod shuffle. I don't have anything against people who buy for these reasons. It makes sense that people assume iPods are the be-all-and-end-all of mp3 players, because they were the first company to really market them successfully, and it's a sign of their success that people don't think "I want an mp3 player with all the features that are right for me" but rather "I want an iPod."

It it really that difficult for you to accept that other people don't want the same thing that you want?

Right, okay. So is it really that hard for you to accept that some people would want a radio? I have no problem with people not wanting them. I just think that they're cheap enough and easy enough to add that they should be there for the people that do.

(Also, I've never heard of a radio breaking and causing a walkman, turntable, or mp3 player not to work.)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:18 PM on December 31, 2008


wow, microsoft couldn't even get a decent-looking fanboy to tat himself.
posted by krautland at 6:22 PM on December 31, 2008


You should see the thread where they decalred Windows 7 a faliure.

That typo will be fixed in Metafilter SP2.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:43 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Where is the customer value proposition in buying an iPod and getting less storage and fewer features @ the same or even higher cost?

Well, the iPod has one killer feature which the Zune lacks: it actually works on my Mac. I would've seriously considered buying a Zune had Microsoft decided to provide Mac support for it.
posted by gyc at 7:06 PM on December 31, 2008 [5 favorites]


I don't want a radio in my mp3 player for the same reason I don't want a cassette deck in my turntable. I don't use it and if it should ever break, it may affect the parts that I do use. I don't want things in my things that when they break affect the things in my things that I do want.

I'm not even sure what to say about that other than the odds of the FM tuner going out, much less bricking your player, are roughly slim to none.

It's nice that the Sansa has voice recorder, but I don't use one and don't feel the need for one.

I don't use the VR on my Zen (although I am tempted to drop it in my shirt pocket for "closed door meetings" just to see how much it picks up) but what the hell, it's not hurting anything by being there.

Right, okay. So is it really that hard for you to accept that some people would want a radio? I have no problem with people not wanting them. I just think that they're cheap enough and easy enough to add that they should be there for the people that do.


Back to the cost thing again. A few years ago my wife picked up a couple of uber-cheap Magnavox players for ~$20.00 each. Even those have SD support (and yes, FM tuners), I popped a 1 gig SD card into one of them and ended up with a decent little player, cheap. That's the thing, these features shouldn't greatly affect the cost of the unit. The fact that iPods don't have them and those "non-features" aren't reflected in a lower price point bugs me.
posted by MikeMc at 7:06 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


So is it really that hard for you to accept that some people would want a radio?

No. I just assume those people buy an mp3 player with one built in. I don't assume, as you have, that they're so fucking stupid and shallow that instead of buying what they want, they buy an iPod so that they can look cool even though it doesn't do what they want it to do.
posted by Manhasset at 7:24 PM on December 31, 2008 [4 favorites]


I don't assume, as you have, that they're so fucking stupid and shallow that instead of buying what they want, they buy an iPod so that they can look cool even though it doesn't do what they want it to do.

Cool off, Manhasset. That's not what I was saying. Sure, I don't think that a majority of the people who are first time iPod buyers even look into whether or not there's a radio attached, because they just want an iPod. That's not stupid, that's a testament to how effective their advertising is. Ipods do some things very well (my shuffle had really great sound, FWIW), but if people were comparing the devices they were going to by in terms of features and price alone, most wouldn't be buying iPods. I think brand name recognition is a large reason for their success. Again, that's not a bad thing. But I still think that incorporating more features wouldn't be a bad thing, either.

Then again, I switched to linux because I was tired of not being able to customize windows xp (among other reasons). I like options and flexibility, and I think software and electronics manufacturers should give us as many options as possible, and let the consumers pick which ones they want to use, rather than the companies making those choices for us and telling us what's best.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:38 PM on December 31, 2008


And when the consumers pick a company that they know makes choices they largely agree with and saves them the hassle, you decide that's purely down to advertising? Nice.
posted by bonaldi at 8:28 PM on December 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


And when the consumers pick a company that they know makes choices they largely agree with and saves them the hassle, you decide that's purely down to advertising? Nice.

Again, didn't say that. Again, iPods do some stuff very well--my shuffle, for example, had really good sound--but in terms of features and price was practically crippled compared to other similar USB mp3 players. Which would let me select the songs I wanted via a UI, play radio, or do voice recording, if I wanted to and were just as easy to use. Their continued manufacture and relative success suggests to me that users are looking to buy them for reasons other than features or price. I think iPod branding has something to do with it. Maybe there are other things, but in the case of (say) the shuffle, I'm at a loss to imagine what they are.

But to me, suggesting that iPods are successful not in part due to their advertising and branding, among other things, is like saying Windows is the most successful OS because it works better than any other OS--the proof being, of course, that everyone uses it. Which seems silly? I'm not deriding iPod users or Windows users or anything like that. Use what you want! I just don't see why iPod users should have to pay fifty bucks for a radio if they want it.

Anyway, this is a massive headache & derail. Off to watch the ball drop. Tally ho, zune users! Hope your players are up and running tomorrow.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:45 PM on December 31, 2008


But, yes, iPod buyers are buying the thing on something more than just Features+Price. It's staggering that seven years since its launch, including years when competitors were widely expected to come in and kill it on features and price (hell, some of them even had removable batteries of all things), people are still saying "oh, it's the marketing, of course".

If a tech company -- well, Microsoft frankly -- wants to eat Apple's lunch in this market, they're going to have to understand that there's a third ingredient between "what it does" and "how much it costs", and that the ingredient matters deeply to a lot of people -- to a majority of the people in this market. And that third thing isn't shiny ads or brand recognition, though of course they play "a part". But they're not the whole game.

It's usability. The sort of usability where a lack of options isn't "constricted choices" or "reduced features!" but straightforwardness and does-pretty-much-what-I-want-without-me-even-having-to-think-about-it. Apple doesn't always get that right, but by christ it comes a lot closer than its competitors. Probably because the competitors are still looking at feature lists and blaming their trouncings on adverts.

And when other companies do get it, they clean up as well, like Flip are with their catastrophically under-featured and barely advertised video cameras. No brand recognition, no fanbois, no features. But they work without a handbook, and so they shift units.

It's not a complicated recipe, it's just that making things really, really easy to use is very hard to do. So developers give up, say it's easy for them, then blame the users for not understanding, and finally blame the marketing when an easier product wins. Easy is hard.
posted by bonaldi at 8:49 PM on December 31, 2008 [6 favorites]


Just as another data point on the shuffle: I love using mine in the car because it has no interface to look at and distract myself while driving. Either I like what I'm hearing or I don't, in which case I thumb to the next song with no more effort than punching a radio button. The iPhone is great when someone is riding shotgun and managing it, but when I'm alone in the car, the lack of visual interface is a feature.

On the Zune breakdown, my husband works for a company that provides wifi to hotels and restaurants, and his comment when I popped him the link was that everybody at his office was busy being glad it wasn't their fault.
posted by immlass at 9:31 PM on December 31, 2008


Apple also nailed "feel." The better iPods feel solid, have a pleasing shape and heft. That counts for a lot. And their audio has, I think, probably tended to suck less than their competition, with the exception of a few lesser-known companies (Cowan particularly, it seems.)

I'm not a golden-ears by a long shot, but when I listen to music, I like it to be excellent. When it's background noise — the case for most people most of the time, I'll wager — I could be happy enough with stock earphones and a fifty dollar no-name-brand MP3 player.

I am disappointed I can't get Apple's excellent physical feel, very nice interface, and excellent sound quality.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


Cool off, Manhasset.

Oh, I'm cool, baby.

I don't assume, as you have, that they're so fucking stupid and shallow that instead of buying what they want, they buy an iPod so that they can look cool even though it doesn't do what they want it to do.

That's not what I was saying.

ahem:

It seems to me that most people don't care about the presence of a radio because they're buying for the brand/prestige, and not for the actual features.

Whatever, dude. It might not be what you're "saying," but it's certainly what you wrote.
posted by Manhasset at 9:57 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


courtesy of slashdot:
I sense a disturbance in the Force... It's as if tens of voices cried out in terror and were silenced.
posted by porn in the woods at 10:08 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that most people don't care about the presence of a radio because they're buying for the brand/prestige, and not for the actual features.

Whatever, dude. It might not be what you're "saying," but it's certainly what you wrote.


Actually you do see that kind of thinking amongst the tween set. Talking to some friends and coworkers about players the consensus amongst those with tweens/younger teens is "It has to be an iPod, if it's not an iPod it's not cool." I mean seriously, who could reasonably be expected to bear the humiliation of having a "generic iPod"? It's just one of those things.

Oh, and Happy New Year MeFites!

P.S. She's a dudette.
posted by MikeMc at 10:39 PM on December 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't use the VR on my Zen (although I am tempted to drop it in my shirt pocket for "closed door meetings" just to see how much it picks up) but what the hell, it's not hurting anything by being there.

Actually it's devaluing the device. For example, my phone can do a lot of things, like edit music, that I not only never use, will probably never use. I feel cheated, like that time/effort/space these useless features take up could have been spent on something else. Meanwhile I use the shit outta my iTouch, feel like I'm getting my money's worth and more from it, and wouldn't dream of leaving my house without it, while the phone almost feels like a nuisance to carry around.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:02 PM on December 31, 2008


I've always assumed that the iTunes software was designed by Microsoft. It basically punishes you for trying to do really simply, intuitive things. I was living in the sticks last year and ripping CD's from a local public library. I didn't have internet at home, and I had to type in all the album information for every single track on my own. Annoying. Stupid. Horrible design. iTunes punishes you for having your own CD library at hand rather than paying the iStore or whatever the fuck it is for music.

My iPod 80 gig is nice to look at, and a decent product. I needed that much space for my CD collection before a big move where I had to sell all of them. All well and good, but it's still a buggy product. A fair number of my albums get put in with the wrong track listing, and I'm unable to fix it. Which is kind of annoying, since I'm one of those dinosaurs who still likes to listen to a whole album. Oh, and it can't seem to keep my album artwork straight. If you're going to include a neat feature like "Cover Flow," you should probably make it work.

Oh, and final bitch: If I buy a 250 USD piece of hardware, please include some decent ear pieces. Just charge 270 USD and include real ones, not the crappy little white ones that basically make your iPod sound like a piece of shit, when in fact it delivers some decent sound with the right accessories.

So the iPod/iTunes is buggy as all hell and very user unfriendly. But, like capitalism, it's probably the lesser of all evils these days.
posted by bardic at 11:54 PM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


(And it hasn't ever broken down, so I guess that's a plus I should consider. And I bought this little leather case for it with a red racing stripe and in my dreams this makes me a viking.)
posted by bardic at 12:00 AM on January 1, 2009


I didn't have internet at home, and I had to type in all the album information for every single track on my own.

Weird, I've never had to do that.

A fair number of my albums get put in with the wrong track listing, and I'm unable to fix it.

Never noticed that, but if so, you can change it under File>Get Info, right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:12 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, been there done that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

Like I said, I'm generally happy with it, but iTunes annoys me.
posted by bardic at 12:21 AM on January 1, 2009


(Also, I've never heard of a radio breaking and causing a walkman, turntable, or mp3 player not to work.)

Obviously he's talking about the super high-end audiophile mp3 players where all the analog components are done with vacuum tubes.
posted by delmoi at 3:30 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


you can get a 4gb Sansa Clip with a display (not to mention the FM tuner and FLAC and OGG support )

The support for FLAC and OGG is pretty much why I'm a rockbox fan.

I hate having to downsample stuff just to listen to it at the office ( where 99% of my sansa e-270 occurs )
posted by mikelieman at 6:13 AM on January 1, 2009


I really like the portable MP3 player scene, because it means that all the douchebags who'd be yapping with each other or playing boomboxes too loud are all wrapped up in a private sonic world, leaving the real world -- with its birds and dogs and wind and rustling branches and cars and footsteps and a zillion other beautiful abstract compositions -- far more serene.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:21 AM on January 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


If a tech company -- well, Microsoft frankly

microsoft presently (!) is a packaging and shipment company as far as I am concerned but you are right about usability being the thing to focus on if they want to kill anything. apple and google are the only ones really being company-wide focussed on that and the results show. all the other big players have one team that sticks out by getting it right (flickr at yahoo being an example and we know why) but generally have not moved on from giving the consumer just as much as they absolutely have to. that cannot work in a marketplace where your competitor goes above and beyond.

this is not limited to tech companies. look at the customer service amazon and zappos are providing and fear the day someone with that approach invades your industry.
posted by krautland at 7:52 AM on January 1, 2009


I mean seriously, who could reasonably be expected to bear the humiliation of having a "generic iPod"?

Or even, God forbid, buying an iPod Mini as a Christmas gift for a 13-year-old male cousin - a mistake I made a few years back. The look of betrayal in his eyes will haunt me for the rest of my days.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:51 AM on January 1, 2009


So how are the Zunes faring this morning?

Also, I want to thank everyone for making this my most successful FPP thus far. People sure love their consumer electronics identity politics! Though I am a bit dismayed that this has gotten so many more angry comments than the Bush administration oral history farewell thread, and that people were viciously arguing over MP3 players as the ball dropped, I must admit to being most pleased as well. May the new year bring you all the best!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:47 AM on January 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I didn't have internet at home, and I had to type in all the album information for every single track on my own.

Um, how did you expect this to work?
posted by mazola at 9:57 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Um, how did you expect this to work?

CD-Text?
posted by JonB at 10:19 AM on January 1, 2009


Um, how did you expect this to work?

iTunes for Windows is 60-odd megabytes. Winamp is 10 MB, but it also does less.

So a non-crazy person might expect that the 20 or 30 MB above what it would conservatively take to add iTunes buying, etc, to winamp did something useful, like contain a database of the 50,000 or so most common cds. They would be wrong, of course. That extra however many MB seems to consist entirely of broken bits of cruft that have no other purpose than to crash.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:37 AM on January 1, 2009


Do commercial CDs use this?*

*I haven't bought a physical CD in years. And no, I'm not an iTunes store junky, I subscribe to eMusic.
posted by mazola at 10:39 AM on January 1, 2009


I just tried this with 2 CDs that I don't believe had ever been placed in my machine before. Unplugged the net, and tried both in iTunes, Windows Media Player, and WinAmp.

CD 1: David Bowie's Pin Ups, CD released 1999

iTunes - can read the disc name as BOWIE, but no other information
WMP - no information
WinAmp - strangely, wouldn't play at all, possibly because of interactive content on the disc

CD 2 - Gwen Stefani's Love Angel Music Baby, 2004

iTunes - no information
WMP - No information
WinAmp - visibly tries to contact an online database, but ends up with no info

Maybe discs today have this information stored, I don't know, haven't bought a disc for myself in ages. But yeah, if you're not online, you're getting nothing. Maybe there's an archive you can download?
posted by yellowbinder at 10:58 AM on January 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you rip tracks with iTunes while offline, you can ask it to find the track names for you once you're online again. You have to rip the entire album, however.
posted by bonaldi at 11:01 AM on January 1, 2009


The only reason I'd consider replacing my perfectly-working (ish) Zen Sleek with an iPod is for the DAB plugin. Maybe US radio is terrible, but I occasionally like to hear new songs, or songs I haven't heard in a while, or sometimes I put on lower-division football commentaries because I find it comforting.
posted by mippy at 12:55 PM on January 1, 2009


Maybe discs today have this information stored....

CD-Text is used sporadically on retail CDs, but you can burn your own CDs with CD-Text. Some burning programs will convert MP3s to WAV on the fly, keeping the CD text intact. You can still update artist and track information by hand with most burning software I know of.

But yeah, if you're not online, you're getting nothing. Maybe there's an archive you can download?

I'm not sure how you use this, but you can download the FreeDB database, which would provide an off-line database of CD information.

My 2002 Prius doesn't read CD Text, which is annoying as there's a large screen that just tells me I'm playing CD3 Track 2, when it could tell me the track title (while it does get some FM station name data). But the CD decks at the college station where I DJ read CD Text, which can be quite handy when fumbling around for tracklists.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:44 AM on January 2, 2009


If you're one of those with locked Zune, you probably already know this, but a fix is available:

Follow these steps:

1. Disconnect your Zune from USB and AC power sources.
2. Because the player is frozen, its battery will drain—this is good. Wait until the battery is empty and the screen goes black. If the battery was fully charged, this might take a couple of hours.
3. Wait until after noon GMT on January 1, 2009 (that's 7 a.m. Eastern or 4 a.m. Pacific time).
4. Connect your Zune to either a USB port on the back or your computer or to AC power using the Zune AC Adapter and let it charge.

Once the battery has sufficient power, the player should start normally. No other action is required—you can go back to using your Zune!
posted by filthy light thief at 10:50 AM on January 2, 2009


If anyone wants to take a look at the faulty source code, here it is.

Being the opposite of a programmer, one of the commenters in the most recent Digg thread on the subject sums it up nicely:

"For anyone who is wondering or just doesn't want to figure it out, Dec. 31 qualified as being greater than day 365 (obviously, because it was day 366) but it got caught where the program says to look at (days > 365). The problem is that there was no code for what to do if the day *equals* 366, only if days is *greater* than 366. So, there was no way to break out of the (days > 365) loop until today (day 367) when the program would reset days to 1, thereby breaking the loop."
posted by yellowbinder at 10:54 AM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Heh. That's a funny error.

I've made similar ones myself, but not with quite the same consequences.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on January 2, 2009


When people look at iPod, they see what they want to be.

When they look at Zune, they see what they are.
posted by mazola at 8:34 PM on January 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny thing is that these people are looking at their music players, instead of listening to them.

Cowon > most everything > Zune > iPod, from the reviews I'm reading.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on January 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Funny thing is that these people are looking at their music players, instead of listening to them.


I was speaking metaphorically.
posted by mazola at 12:30 PM on January 3, 2009


I switched to apple after doing windows desktop support for three years. I just decided that I wasn't going to touch another microsoft product unless I was being paid to do so.

Though I do quite like the xbox. Microsoft should put that team in charge of all their consumer products.

Notice that there was never really the level of animosity toward the red ring of death problem? The xbox is a cool product that for the most part "just works" so they get a pass on the hardware problems.
posted by empath at 10:04 AM on January 4, 2009


I've heard the Zune is pretty good, too. Intuitive UI, nice build, only crashes once every four years. If I weren't pissing away good money in the pursuit of audiophile quality (ie. recognized the limitations of my own aging, damaged ears), I'd probably buy a Zune in preference to the Cowon D2 except that I don't trust Microsoft to provide any better a user experience than the Cowon. And I don't expect much of the Cowon's UI.

Maybe I should go for the Zune after all. Helluva lot easier to find retailers, which might mean less hassle on getting it replaced if it fails. Being able to do a straight over-the-counter exchange of defective for new is worth a fair bit of consideration. I absolutely trusted my local retailer to take back the iTouch if it failed (or, in this case, failed to perform. Lousy audio dropout issues, WTFBBQ!?)
posted by five fresh fish at 7:58 PM on January 4, 2009


Microsoft should upgrade the Zune to audiophile output, stomp the last of its UI bugs (if there are any), and allow it to read a shitload of file formats including whatever Apple is using for iTunes. And if Apple thinks its iTunes file format shouldn't be an open standard, take 'em to court. Apple should not be able to establish effective monopolies just because Microsoft managed to do so.

Microsoft would, IMO, do well to move to a BSD kernel with their own UI layer — and simultaneously press for open standards on all that Apple has going in the media realm, and release better than Apple consumer products to compete. What it would lose in the Windows game it would gain in the MS Office, iTunes, and xBox, and Zune/ZunePhone games.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:06 PM on January 4, 2009


Uh, yes, if Microsoft wants to do well it should release products that are "better than Apple's". The point of this thread is that it is completely unable to do so.

But suppose it could. To beat Apple here, Microsoft would have to get iTunes DRM, fix its UI (ahahaah) and so on. It would then be facing the iPod brand and its 70% market-share. So they add audiophile quality, and have a single advantage.

Then out comes the iPod Pro, which has all the advantages and the audiophile quality. MS is dead in the water, again. What now? Add .ogg? Add more of The Social?

As for the open formats thing, they can sue all they like, and as somebody -- Real? -- already tried. It's not abuse of monopoly if you don't have a monopoly, and since the iPod will play music from just about any non-DRM source, there's no way you can say the iTMS has a monopoly. So what possible basis is there for forcing them to open up iTunes DRM? They sell DRM-free music from labels that will permit it, anyway.

(Oh: and it is insane to think Microsoft is going to try and force them to do it while their entire operation is invested in resisting open formats. In fact, the reason this bug bricked the Zunes is because the DRM required that the clock be locked out from user tampering. MS aren't going to be forcing anyone to unlock DRM any time soon)
posted by bonaldi at 8:57 PM on January 4, 2009


And if Apple thinks its iTunes file format shouldn't be an open standard, take 'em to court. Apple should not be able to establish effective monopolies just because Microsoft managed to do so.

Um, AAC is an open format. The DRM is proprietary (and the issue), not the format.
posted by mazola at 9:01 PM on January 4, 2009


No the codec used to encrypt the music is standard/open but the encryption is locked and closed. Its still a closed format once the DRM has been applied. A format is both the container and the codec. Its unfair to call Apple's aac implementation open. In fact, once they added the proprietary DRM its no longer AAC.

Thats like me telling you that I have released the secret to immortality in a book I wrote. The book is in english but its locked in a safe deposit box and I dont want to give up the key. There's nothing open about that scenario.

>the reason this bug bricked the Zunes is because the DRM required that the clock be locked out from user tampering. MS aren't going to be forcing anyone to unlock DRM any time soon

No the real reason is because freescale cant code a clock driver. MS and Apple dont sit around convincing record companies to force them to use DRM. If there's a real cuprit here, its not the tech companies, its because the record companies are afraid to release their music in non-DRM formats.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:55 AM on January 5, 2009


No the real reason is because freescale cant code a clock driver.
That's the reason for the crash. The reason it bricked them is because the clock is locked down to prevent you unexpiring time-limited tracks. Otherwise the clock could have been reset from the PC to move into 2009, and they'd have worked again.

MS and Apple dont sit around convincing record companies to force them to use DRM.
MS sure does: having control of the majority DRM format is a serious advantage for a software company, especially if you can persuade lots of hardware people to licence it.
posted by bonaldi at 9:11 AM on January 5, 2009


This might be a slight derail, but I was in Hollywood this past weekend visiting family and I had an opportunity to drop in on the musicfan-heaven Amoeba Records on Hollywood ave. I bought about 10 records and I noticed that in at least 1/2 of them and really any record that's been released in the last year, the CD is included. I love this because I only buy music in a vinyl format, so when I buy Kanye's newest record, I get the CD for free for the same price I would have paid if I'd bought the CD alone. Then I can always show that I have a legit copy of that album in the very unlikely case I ever get in torrent for my pirating ways.
So yeah - for peoples unaware, don't waste your money buying the CD - buy it on vinyl because the CD will probably be included. Even if you don't have a record player, it's still worth it for the art. That's my opinion, anyways
posted by Bageena at 12:32 PM on January 6, 2009


Well, that's cool: Apple is going DRM-free on iTunes. That should make the player market more competitive.

Now if only they're provide lossless encodings.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:53 PM on January 6, 2009


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