Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Zune Team Thinks GamerCards Trump a WiFi Store

The Zune Team made their huge announcement today, launching the new Zune 2's and the rewritten Zune Marketplace. While I'm not going to belittle the work they've done in that respect, I have to wonder... ZuneCards? WTF?!?!? How in the world is that more important than being able to buy stuff over your WiFi connection? How long is Microsoft going to let Apple have the uncontested lead in that space? Yeah, WiFi sync is pretty cool, but I'd rather have WiFi store. And while we're at it, what about Xbox Video Marketplace integration?

All in all, today's announcement was pretty disappointing. I could have lived with the WMP11 version of the Marketplace if I could have played with tighter Xbox Live Marketplace integration. I'm not sure I like the new Zune UI either. My Master Chief background won't look quite as cool on it after the upgrade.

One question I have outstanding is whether or not HDTV recorded off of CableCARD tuners will be able to be synced to the new Zunes. If they can, that might help deflect some of my disappointment, seeing as how right now all that content is trapped on my Media Center.

Posted on Oct 02 2007, 10:31 PM by Robert McLaws
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  • October 3, 2007 1:23 AM
  • Shawn Oster said:

    Interesting, I had a much different reaction to the announcement.  I find WMP to be a mediocre at best, horrible at worst media player and I'll be very glad to see it banished from daily use.  In fact learning that the software was getting updated/replaced was one of the high points for me with this announcement.  I really liked the clean look in the screenshots and given the funky scrolly background of the software I'll bet you a pint of Guinness that there will be different "themes" you can apply to the software so it looks good on your beloved background :)

    I found the other bits nice as well, a real social site to talk about music and actually get "social" and wireless syncing is a nice feature even if it does require you to be powered up.  It's also nice that they are joining the DRM-free world.

    I'll be honest, I find a WiFi store very, very cool in concept yet close to worthless in reality.  The sad truth is that most people aren't really open to new music and while buying a few tracks here and there would be cool for the first few days I just don't see it being a useful core or even secondary feature.  I find a real social music site way more intriguing than a store.

    Another issue with a WiFi store for me is finding an open hotspot.  Usually if I'm in a coffee shop I'm hurriedly grabbing a drink or I'm chatting with friends or working on a project.  Rarely at a coffee shop do I have leisure time to browse for new music, much less input that store's WEP password into my player via a scroll or d-pad.  The few places I can imagine wanting device-based store browsing don't actually have wide open wifi access.

    I'm very curious to see how Apple fares in this market and what affect browsing the WiFi store and downloading tracks will have on battery life and what the purchase patterns will be.

    Anyway, our opposite reactions and obvious focus on different features just highlights how difficult it is to prioritize features given how personal an experience media is.

    October 3, 2007 1:49 AM
  • Shawn Oster said:

    Damn, I always forget something.  As I understand it even Apple's WiFi iTuens Store is limited to the iPhone and Touch, which makes sense when you consider just how annoying it would be to search through 3 million songs with just a d-pad (or scroll wheel) alone.

    October 3, 2007 1:55 AM
  • October 3, 2007 2:37 AM
  • Julian Kay said:

    I don't think they thought "oh shall we have a wireless marketplace... or zune cards?"

    They're probably all on the list of features they're working on. :)

    October 3, 2007 3:16 AM
  • JoeM said:

    Does the device work as a mass storage device, like other MP3 players from  creative.  This is the biggest thing holding me back.

    October 3, 2007 7:39 AM
  • Diego said:

    Actually, WIFI scync is way more important to me than a wireless store. First, I'm not into buying music in public places just because I can. Second, the new wireless syncing would allow me to connect the Zune to my stereo, far from my computer, and keep it updated without ever moving it from its dock. That's something useful!

    October 3, 2007 8:49 AM
  • Shawn Oster said:

    @Julian Kay: I couldn't agree with you more, the Zune team is even quoted as saying that they do want a wifi store at some point it's just that they don't feel the current structure is all the useful or friendly.

    Hmm, seems previous nice long comment disappeared... hey Robert did you not approve it or did it just get lost?

    Oh well, time for the paraphrase...

    Wifi Store isn't that useful without a better input device, like a touch or qwerty keyboard.  The software update is my favorite "feature" as I really disliked the branded WMP and the new Zune software seems much more music focused, more "Zune" like so to speak.  New social beta site is a great idea, though to be honest it should have been there at launch considering the whole "Social" angle.  Wifi syncing is a *much* more useful feature than a store.  You might buy a few tracks a week but you'll probably sync everyday, at least if you have any podcasts you listen to.  If you read the Apple forums you'll see a lot of people disappointed by the lack of podcast syncing in the new Wifi iTunes.

    Glad to see Microsoft offering DRM-free tracks as well, that really opens things up.  Wonder if they're going to adopt the silly 1.29 "Plus" pricing scheme of iTunes or the more logical and friendly scheme of Amazon's new DRM-free store?

    October 3, 2007 11:13 AM
  • Glennyboiwpg said:

    The reason why the zune doesn't (parhaps never will) have a wifi music store is simple.  You need a browswer to make that work.

    why???  Simple.  How are you going to connect to all of those public wifi hotspots where you have to pay?  You connect to those hotspots using a broswer webpage don't you?  So how would the zune connect to those hotspots without a browser?

    and if you can't connect to public wifi hotspots why bother having an wifi store?

    So why don't they add a broswer to a zune?  I'm not sure to be honest... maybe they just don't want to support it?  Actually.. its probably caause you would need a keyboard/touchscreen interface to do that.

    October 3, 2007 11:16 AM
  • October 3, 2007 2:04 PM
  • GoodThings2Life said:


    Zunes are built on Windows Mobile platform... are you suggesting that Windows Mobile is incapable of adding browser functionality? Or are you just implying that Microsoft would never take that approach? Either position seems naive of you to take.

    Furthermore, in order to sync over Wi-Fi that it has to connect to an access point or adhoc (which would just be confusing for most people), so what makes you think it won't connect to hotspots?

    October 3, 2007 3:30 PM
  • glennyboiwpg said:

    1.) adding a browser to a moble device is more then just uploading the moble version of IE.  How are you going to operate it?  not with those button controls.  A touch screen?  Ok... sure.. but your going to put a touch keyboard onto that small screen?  People have been trying their very very best to nail apple to the wall about that, and look how much bigger the touches screen is compared to the zunes.

    2.)About access points, i'm assuming your talking about "how would I get my wireless zune to work at home because I have a WEP password on my wireless router". Well i'm assuming there is a settings window for that, which if you have to adminsiter the device through there, once in a while (as your home router password won't change much) you can deal with a less the optimal interface... but you won't want to do that every time you go to the coffee shop.

    October 3, 2007 3:45 PM
  • GoodThings2Life said:


    I distinctly recall reading that it would support videos recorded through Media Center, so I believe that addresses that concern.

    I agree Wi-Fi Marketplace should be a priority, however, definitely moreso than ZuneCards. At the same time, it is an interesting idea *if* they extended it to something more reasonable. I was hoping for 3day instead of 3play, personally. That's more than enough time to get on my laptop and download a copy of it from marketplace that isn't restricted.

    Oh, and I can't swear to this at the moment, but I thought I read that Xbox marketplace would be more integrated with Zune Marketplace, but I could be mistaken.

    October 3, 2007 3:55 PM
  • GoodThings2Life said:


    Don't start preaching about technical difficulties of implementing something. This isn't their first barbecue, afterall, so if and when they decide to take action on this, they're going to have a solution. That said, it could very well be Zune 3 before we see that functionality. It's not like the options exist on earlier iPods either, and Apple sure didn't backport the features.

    As for access points, again, I understand what you're saying, but I don't think you're in a better position to complain about that yet since you haven't seen it in action yet. If you're going to rant, at least pick something you can rant about intelligently. Maybe it will be a pain, and maybe they have (or will have) a pretty slick way of dealing with that.

    October 3, 2007 4:02 PM
  • glennyboiwpg said:


    Woah!  I'm not allowed to answer everyone’s question about "why don't they have a wifi store" with "maybe there is a technical reason for not doing so?"  Wow... yes sir/mamm... Don't question mr ballmer around here!  Now if thats not an example of microsoft fanboi arrogance I don't know what is!  

    About "well previous ipods didn't have that functionality"  well yeah.. they had to introduce a completely new ipod in order to do it.. the iphone/ipod touch.  Meaning the only way to really get around that interface problem is to introduce a new interface.

    If you can't dispute my actual logic with... I don't know... LOGIC... maybe keep your snide comments to yourself.

    October 3, 2007 4:13 PM
  • Shawn Oster said:


    The Zune team has already said they are interested in a wireless store, just that with the current generation of products and paradigms they don't feel they could deliver a quality experience.  Can't remember who said it but I'm pretty sure it was Allard.  The lack of a store probably also has to do with the fact that they pretty much re-wrote their entire ecosystem; from firmware, to software client to server backend and web services.  It's much easier to hire new people and give them a relatively isolated task of creating Zune Cards vs. implementing an end-to-end feature like a Wifi store that would probably touch every layer of the already busy development team.

    While Zune is running a mobile OS that doesn't get around the lack of a decent input method.  Even Apple, king of the interface and user experience, didn't opt to put wireless store abilities into their new classic iPods.  Looking at iPhone/Touch screenshots of WiFi iTunes in action I'm not all that impressed and that's on a much bigger and sexier screen.  3.2" is just a little too small still for me to do some serious music browsing.

    Also, unless you do what Apple did, partner with a major retailer that can offer nationwide WiFi, you are still relying on either open WiFi spots, which are shrinking all the time as people get security savvy, or on people stopping to enter a WEP password into their device using just a d-pad (or Zune Pad, though I still like  "squircle").

    Lastly... I feel a much better way to implement a wifi store experience would be to partner with Pandora and, have them generate an automatic podcast of user specified length, say in 15 minute increments, and while listening offer the ability to flag the currently playing song as a "Purchase".  Then when you're in a wifi spot or at home syncing the track is automatically purchased and downloaded.  Great way to discover new music without having to browse through 3 million tracks, something most people don't do anyway.

    October 3, 2007 4:36 PM
  • Throzz said:

    Well it'l looking way better than previous version and the new, big button may be a fine thing but... well it's just zune....    btw. I wonder if they keep the wonderfull "brown" model :)    I just love "muddy" looking gadgets :)

    October 4, 2007 2:05 AM