Welcome to the social
Microsoft Zune Player
Manufacturer: Microsoft (product page)
System requirements: Windows 2000 or Windows XP, PC with USB 2.0 port
Price: $249 (shop for the Zune)
Let’s get one thing clear at the start: the Zune is a beautiful music player and the entire ecosystem trumps anything devised by a PlaysforSure licensee. But Microsoft isn’t satisfied with showing up its own partners; it wants a piece of Apple pie.
The signs are everywhere. The business model was borrowed from Apple, the headphones were borrowed from Apple, and the click wheel doesn’t resemble an iPod scroll wheel for nothing. How far does the copying go? Every Apple product bears the phrase “Designed by Apple in California.” On the back of every Zune, in tiny gray type, Microsoft has their own version of this line. It says: “Hello from Seattle.”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Now we will destroy you.
How well does the new device stack up to the old favorite? Let’s take a look inside the box.
The out of box experience
Could the Zune come in cooler packaging? Probably, but the sheer hipness of such a thing would blind the average geek.
Microsoft has learned all sorts of lessons from Apple, including the importance of the initial “out of box” experience. The Zune packaging is lavish: a superbly designed two-piece cardboard box that feels substantial in the hand and just begs to be pulled open. When it is, the Zune tagline is revealed: “Welcome to the social.”
Beneath this lid lies the player itself, along with headphones and a sync cable.
Instruction cards (calling them “manuals” would be an insult to true manuals everywhere), a carrying pouch, and a decal are all included in a separate compartment on the back of the box. For a product targeted squarely at high school and college students, the inclusion of the decal is a curious choice. Where, exactly, do high school and college students stick decals from their portable music players? On their Trapper Keepers™?
“The social” wasn’t as welcoming as I would have liked, though. Upon pulling the Zune out of its cardboard case, lifting it out of its plastic baggie, and peeling the protector from its screen (this thing comes well protected), I did what any self-respecting new gadget owner would do: ditch the manual and fire up the new toy. When that three-inch screen burst to life, I thought to myself, "Self, you have got to give credit to Microsoft for a great out-of-box experience."
And that’s when it crashed. Was it a sign of things to come? Read on to find out…
Test systemAthlon 3400+ CPU1GB RAM200GB hard driveWindows XP SP2USB 2.0DSL Internet connection