The Media Guru

Dec 16, 2007

This is the 2nd part of the “Microsoft goes Artsy” series… & in this post I’ll review the Zune Software that comes along with your Microsoft Zune.

The very first step (obviously) is downloading the software… You can get it at or else here’s the direct download link.

Installation… it’s the first time I’ve seen Microsoft not using a progress bar – just a increasing “%”

On the first run, Zune Software offers you to customize your settings. No… I don’t want the Zune Software to become my default media player – WMP11 is there for that. I also had to uncheck all media types to prevent Zune Software from taking them over…

WoW! This is the most un-Microsoft-like app you’ll ever find! While the original Zune Software v1 was a rip-off of WMP11, v2 is a totally different approach. Zune Software is powered not by WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), but by UIX (Microsoft Iris UI Framework), a new Framework Microsoft has developed for the Zune Software (thanks to Long Zhen for that info).

Quoting Tim Gideon from PC Magazine,
Microsoft’s answer to iTunes….is quite attractive and makes iTunes seem like a big, boring spreadsheet…
The Zune Software brings out the best GFX out of a media player - sleek, minimalist progress bar & play buttons. Just like in WMP11, you can browse via Album Art or via Artists. But I find the whole thing a bit too crammed up in a small space, so that only half of the text is displayed. (You’ll need a very wide Widescreen to display all that text!).
There’s an Aurora-like Pink-Orange animation at the bottom of the Zune Software, which looks quite good on the different Zune themes. There’s also Sync to Zune, Burn on CD & Add to Playlist icons on the bottom left.

The Now Playing full-screen player… there isn’t any visualization on Zune Software, but this Album Art mashup makes you forget everything else… this is definitely one of the best features of Zune Software. & it’s well hidden – you have to click the equalizer icon next to the Play buttons (bottom right) to activate it.

Zune Software also plays videos & the layout is also the same as WMP11 – video thumbnails.

& it has an awesome full-screen video player!! (more minimalistic buttons!)

You also have a picture browser with Slideshow options. & you can now play songs while using the slideshow (this feature wasn’t available in v1).

Unfortunately, that’s the only thing I don't have… :(

The Zune Marketplace unlike iTunes doesn’t force you to provide your credit card to be able to browse through songs… Just like any other media store, Zune Marketplace provides you with the different Charts, Genres and special offers.

You can also search for your favourite Band & it provides additional background info.

You can also preview tracks before considering buying them. (or downloading them elsewhere…)

This isn’t from Marketplace, but from Zune’s Social website… nevertheless, it’s worth looking at the stats:
Most played songs:
Apologize - Timbaland (184,623 plays)
Bleed It Out - Linkin Park (158k)
What I’ve Done - Linkin Park (150k)

Most Played Artists:
Linkin Park (4,129,938 plays)
Jay-Z (2.8m)
System of a Down (1.8m)

Most Played Album:
Minutes to Midnight - Linkin Park (1,168,703 plays)
Shock Value – Timbaland (1m)
All the Right Reasons – Nickelback (825k)

We’ve seen the “Jekyll” side of the Zune Software… now for the “Hyde” side.
The Zune Software isn’t a normal player… it only plays what’s available in My Pictures, My Music & My Videos. Any files located elsewhere, it won’t play it! I couldn’t even open an Xvid movie with it. The interface is good… but it’s not enough, where’s all the standard stuff available with WMP11 (equalizer, advanced volume effects, video effects, 5-star rating, metatag editor, etc).
It’s too simple to be a true media player… eye candy is great, but without features, it’s bland. & don’t forget it takes up a lot of memory – all those GFX use DirectX 3D to run…
More reasons why it isn’t good…

The Verdict
The Zune Software is the first step towards improving the UI of Microsoft applications, just like Office 2007 was a breakthrough product. I hope WMP 12 will include many of these new features… & ultimately replace the Zune Software… Microsoft is well in the way to becoming artsy…
More on WMP 12 wish list.

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Anonymous said...

I am installing it right now very slowly. It actually does have a progress bar it is at the bottom of the screen. Seems way too big to me I didn't even want any stupid software I really just wanted to stick my mp3s on it and go. But you know how nazi microsoft is. Why does this software take up so much space? I could care less about it's stupid looks as long as it's easy to figure out what the heck is going on and it moves quickly. THe prospect for that seems to be pretty low right now.

Anonymous said...

The Zune software is very different from iTunes. I have been an iPod/iTunes user for a long time now. I like on the Zune that you can rate songs. On the iPod you couldn't. The Zune also sounds better than the iPod. I don't know what it is. It sounds crystal clear. I am getting used to the Zune software. I like wireless sync. It makes it convenient for the lazy person. lol. I've only been using the Zune for a couple days so I can't really say anything more about it. Just that everything is different. I finally uninstalled iTunes. I hope my Zune lasts me as long as my iPod if not longer! Oh yeah I have the 120gb Zune.

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