Let’s make this clear upfront: I LOVE music – I pretty much live my life with a soundtrack or theme music most waking hours, and sometimes when I go to bed. I have loved music, all types of music, for most of my life. For me, it’s been about finding the least costly way to get access to the largest library of high quality entertainment. And that has caused me to search far and wide for the ideal media device, and after going through several players from a variety of manufacturers, and more services than I care to remember, I’ve settled on the Zune from Microsoft as one of my Favorite Things.
Let’s see: over the past 10 years, I have tried everything from downloading music from Internet newsgroups to streaming captures to joining various music clubs, but none gave me the satisfaction I was looking for. When Napster 1.0 arrived, I thought I hit pay dirt, but quickly felt guilt and backed away. I wouldn’t do well in prison, you know?
I eventually bought a Rio player and ripped CDs all the night long. It wasn’t the ideal, but it was the best available. When Microsoft announced their Plays for Sure platform/service, I was one of the first to get onboard: finally, I could buy a subscription that would give me access to millions of songs for a pittance! And, with the ability to stream them to my stereo or manage the subscription across several computers and my smartphone, I was in heaven.
Like I said, I was initially with Napster, and then Rhapsody (until they sued Msft for something), then Urge (a Microsoft+MTV baby). With my Creative Zenith Micro and T-Mobile Dash, everything was great. Everything was great, that is, until Microsoft had a friggin’ aneurysm and screwed the whole thing up. For reasons I still don’t quite understand, they drop-kicked everyone and everything related to PFS to the curb and decided to start with a clean slate. I’m still somewhat bitter about the whole thing. Whatever.
The initial release of the Zune was anticlimatic, practically a step backwards. It basically thumbed its nose at PFS and the hardware Partners that drunk the kool aid. That pissed me and a lot of others off. Not only would we lose PFS but would have a product whose physical features were brick like. Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I was thisclose to buying an iPhone, and wasn’t necessarily happy about it.
But then, somehow, the Zune team apparently binged on Red Bull and Skittles until they grew a pair and came back locked & loaded with the iPhone in it’s sites. Yeah buddy! When they announced the Zune pass, their subscription service ala PlaysForSure, I was willing to forgive their past offenses and immediately ordered a 30Gb model, in brown no less. I mean, if I am going to thumb my nose at convention, why go halfway? Everything was great again, until I left it on an airplane. No, it wasn’t turned in to lost and Found. But a few weeks later I had a new one, at the same time that version 2 came out, and with the latest upgrade I can go head to head with any other music player or service and come away the victor. It is that good.
Why? I’ve got a 30Gb media player with FM radio and the ability to download my choice of millions of tracks for only $14.95 a month, that’s less than the cost of 2 CDs! Add to that the ability to sync my videos and subscribe to podcasts (even from iTunes!) And, when I turn on my Xbox 360 I’m able to listen to the same tracks downloaded on my PC! See? I am the man.
So much so that I truly pity the iPod lemmings with their white-cabled umbilical cord who, like a benevolent dictator, feigns munificence while actually sucking them dry and pocketing massive profits. And all for the privilege of “owning” your music. Geez. Let’s see, for less than $15 a month I can ‘own’ whatever I want. If I decided to quit Zune, then I can still buy the tracks and own them outright (with many of them in DRM-free format). Are you listening to the new Usher album? No? I am. Got it the day it dropped. Same thing for Duffy, Sarah Bareillis, Madonna, you get the point. And when Coldplay’s new album came out, I was listening to it that day from my stereo (via my PC hookup) that day, and later on my Zune while at St.Barbucks. My cost? Nothing more than the 14.95 a month I pay now. Buying albums is so 90s.
Now, to be candid. Physically, the Zune is still close to butt-ugly, and that’s a shame. My wife has a 4Gb pink model, which she loves and thinks looks nice. But I still have the original style, and the joy it brings me is worth not having something that is as esthetically pleasing as the iPods. And that’s fine by me.
Anyways, the new Coldplay is out, and I’ve got Season 3 of Battlestar Gallactica cued up, so let me get to the good stuff: If you’re using anything other than a Zune, you’re missing out. Period.
Disclosure: I am a Microsoft employee, but not in the Media & Entertainment Division. This is my personal website, and if I didn’t love the Zune, there wouldn’t be any reason to say I did. So there. 🙂