I saw the new software screenshots days before the launch, and I was pretty impressed. It really looked (and seemed) that Microsoft got it, and make a nice functional music management/playback program. Although I still think WMP 11 fits that bill.
But now that I’ve tried it, I don’t like it THAT much.
The software was redone, and less slow bloat, and more streamlined and simplified. Some features got lost, some got added. It all depends on what you think.
There are definitely positives to the new software, that include:
- Much more simple! – This version really does away with it all, and the UI is very simple. Pretty straightforward, if you’re a newbie to music. The menu is pretty simple and it doesn’t take too much effort to navigate around. Main words are in LARGE bold letters. I like that.
- VERY visual – In this version, we see less of a menu, and more of the media content. Tons of album arts, tons of background images, tons of artist pictures, that’s what people want. We as humans really identify things more visual, so it makes sense to put looks before everything else. I mean, we’re just initially attracted to that at first. So you really see Zune put a big emphasis on album art more than ever before. And other rich visuals that are also pleasing. I love that.
- It actually installs and works well – Surprise. This isn’t the same software program that wouldn’t install right, take forever to load when launched, felt super-slow, and just was an embarrassment to Zune. This installed pretty quickly for me, and it’s functional when I launch it. I don’t notice a problem at all.
- Podcast support – I’m happy that Microsoft didn’t turn that into "Zunecast". I’m glad that Microsoft understood that podcasts are just podcasts, and changing it to fit the Zune would get some people pretty skeptical and snozzy towards Microsoft for doing that. So they actually made "the smart decision" and keep the term "podcast". Ok, well now they finally have that integration for Zune. I don’t bother with podcasts, but it’s nice to have that function without using a 3rd party. Good job.
- No endless scrolling – I’m a major video person, and I love to see my videos (main reason for getting a Zune – bigger screen). I remembered on the old software, the video thumbnails were large, and you’d have to scroll forever to get near the bottom area, or even in the middle. Now more smaller, but still high-quality thumbnail pictures make it easy to scroll to get where you want. Or you could search if you want, but it doesn’t hurt to scroll through your library.
- Better syncing data – When I sync my Zune, it’s pretty easy to know what’s being synced and what’s not. In the old version, I would get the feeling I wouldn’t know until I checked. But on the new version, you just go to the Zune sync page, and it gives you stats on how you’re Zune is syncing. How much spaces has been used up, how many things just got synced, how many are being synced, and how many failed to sync. Real nice. For some reason though, a few video I pulled from YouTube never seem to sync on my Zune for some reason. I don’t know why. Many videos did, but a couple won’t.
- Settings is easy to navigate through – Same think I’ve said before – it’s simple enough to go through. It’s really easy to change the settings, and feels like less work than before.
- ZMP (Zune Marketplace) feels more better to look through – the Zune music store feels much more friendlier to browse thorough. I can find an artist, see their top tracks/albums, get a bio about them, see a few pictures, and find other artist/genres related to the artist. Pretty neat, if you’re a music fan.
- ZMP has music videos! – still a small amount, but there are definitely music videos for the more popular music tracks. It’s great to see that.
But at the same time, there’s cons:
- TOO simple – I can’t edit metadata! I can’t find better layout menus! For a more advanced user, or a person who just really loves their music, you can’t dig deeper to pull what you want. I really hate that. While improving on the design, they got rid of function. NOT GOOD!
- Lack of TV shows and movies on ZMP – I know it’s still just the 2nd generation, but is it that hard to find providers for TV/movie content for ZMP? I wouldn’t mind paying legally, but if it’s not there, how can I?
- Music takes a while to queue up – I noticed that it often takes tracks quite a while to play, after I double-clicked them up. Round 5 seconds or more. I never noticed this before. I think it has to do with the new software.
- NO new layout menus – Well if you don’t include the new "now playing" screen. But otherwise than that, I was looking for better layout menus. Like a list view, similar to iTunes, where each track next to each other has a different bar shade (makes it easy to identify each track as itself). Also, how about a carousel view? Could incorporate some looks of CoverFlow, and be better AND visual at the same time. Next big thing.
- NO dynamic search – I loved dynamic search. It’s where as you’re typing into the search box, results start coming up with the first few inputs you type in. Like if you’re looking for "Lost Angeles", typing a few letters "l-o-s" will immediately start bringing up any media in my computer with the same first few letters. That’s the dynamic part. The search is now static. It stays the same until you press enter. Not very cool, is it? WMP 11 at least still does this.
- "library called collection"? – What’s up with that? Collection or library? Personally I’d go with library. Collection has the disadvantage of not being a familiar term in music programs and is longer to spell.
- You can’t ‘flag’ a song anymore – Why did the Zune team kill the ‘flag’ function? It was sort of like a bookmark, for songs. I had a lot of flagged songs to keep note of, and now they’re all GONE. Gee, thanks a lot. Now I’m going to have to find them all again. I don’t get why the flag function had to die. It worked real well and had a good function.
- There’s a ‘back’ button, but NO ‘forward’ button – Funny. I remember how the Zune (and even WMP 11) had a forward & back button, but yet the Zune program ONLY has the back button to navigate out. But say you want to go back to something you just backed out of. Whoops. You can’t. Not without a few extra mouse clicks again. I think the Zune team was thinking too much of the Zune device buttons.
- Loss of 5-star rating system – OK, this is a biggie to me. Dropping the 5-star system in favor of a like/dislike system? SO STUPID! If I didn’t like a song, I wouldn’t have kept it in the first place. Or I’d keep the song anyway. The 5-star system is a ranking of how much you either like or dislike the music. It is NOT a ranking of how much you like (with no inclusion to how much you hate) music. For example : 1 star = awful. 3 star = OK. 5 star = excellent. How complicated is that? Not hard at all. I can say I like music, but how much do I like it? That’s where the 5 star system kicks in. Zune team shouldn’t worry about a feature that works, they should concentrate on MORE Zune features. I’ll be writing more about the drop of such an important music feature.
- No visualizations! No tempo bars! – WMP 11 has this, and that’s awesome. I’m doubting Zune will ever replace WMP 11 (or should). I love visualizations and tempo bars, and Zune dropped them both. Visualizations are the funny art that plays with music audio files and tempo bars, are the little bar stacks that go up and down along with the music as the tempo (or whatever you call it) goes up and down. Both are pretty neat, and the Zune doesn’t have them! I can’t believe that. We need that.
- Zune is no WMP 11 – Is Microsoft trying to eventually kill off WMP 11, or just make the consumer confused? Now I kind of like both Zune program and WMP 11, but I find WMP 11 offers more, but doesn’t work directly with the Zune. It drives me nuts. Just tweak the WMP 11 UI a bit, and allow Zune support, so Zune can be a PlayForSure device and let it be done with! It’s hard to choose which one to use.
- Media Center sync isn’t what it’s cracked up to be – I thought getting recorded TV from Media Center onto your Zune would be a cinch. Seems not. According to Ars Technica, there’s certain things that will allow such content onto your Zune. So much for filling the void left with no movies/TV shows on ZMP. I’m so not a techie, so I you can read yourself what he has to say for recorded TV syncing.
Well that’s the gist of it. In my view that is. There’s a lot of positives and negatives, and hopefully Microsoft can fix the negatives.
That’s my thoughts on the new Zune 2.0 software.