Loving Zune More Than Microsoft


Oh, Zune.  It’s be a long and stupid ride.  Our relationship has been a strange one to be sure, but now it is time that we have gone our separate ways.  We’ve seen it all, oh yes: the lows, the highs, and the lows again.

I was an original skeptic of Microsoft’s Zune service.  I liked the design of the original Zune put forth by Microsoft, but at its original price, it wasn’t such a steal.  Zune and its iPod equivalent cost roughly the same.  It was for this reason that I originally shied away from the device.  In fact, it wasn’t until much later, when I was gifted a Zune HD, that I came around to Microsoft’s side.  The Zune HD, you see, had a bit less capacity, but it made up for it with a sleek, beautiful design and wonderful hardware.  After over a year of using Apple’s MP3 player, Microsoft pulled me away with this new little device.

The Zune HD was promising.  It was very slim with a huge screen, and its touch-controlled interface worked better than I think most would have imagined.  The icing on the cake was the software program that accompanied the device: the Zune software was a competitor for iTunes — it allowed users to store their libraries of music and offered an online store with depth and breadth to rival Apple’s storefront.  Microsoft even offered a service for users that would enable them to have free streaming and downloads for $15 a month.  This $15 bucks even allowed users to keep 10 songs (DRM-free) at the end of the month — all other downloads were protected by DRM and would only work on PC’s and your Zune devices.  It was a good deal.  It was a good device.  Life was good.

But it didn’t stay good.

Microsoft announced a new brand of phone to compete with the iPhone: Windows Phone 7.  These devices used an OS that would look very familiar to fans of Zune — it looks like Microsoft was beginning to branch its Zune tentacles out.  Zune had already spread to Xbox, and now it was coming to the realm of smartphones.  But it wasn’t meant to be, apparently.  Software news updates started slowing on the Zune front, and eventually, Microsoft decided to discontinue manufacturing of Zune HD with no plans of future releases.  Microsoft stopped supporting the music service that was once to compete with Apple — users, such as myself, were made to dangle in the wind, hoping to hear some news about the company’s future plans for Zune.  Throughout everything, I tried to stay faithful to Zune — I really loved the software after all.  When I upgraded my smartphone to a DROID, the way I listened to music on-the-go changed, but I always made sure to come back to Zune at the end of the day.  I weened myself off of the Zune HD (knowing that there was absolutely no hope for an upgrade), and held out hope that the Zune software would be updated, even overhauled, for the upcoming Windows 8.

Windows 8 had a different plan though.  The service that would replace Zune, Xbox Music, was announced, and initially, I was excited.  As the spiritual successor of Zune, I hoped to experience the new software interface and make my transition.  Microsoft’s plans for Xbox Music and my expectations for it seemed to be opposed: Microsoft aimed to create a way to listen to music that was easy and casual — I was hoping for an interface that was for music-lovers and detail-oriented.  Xbox Music’s design has been pared down so that only the bare minimum is left.  I tried to get used to it, but it just wasn’t the same.

This all leads me here, with my head in my hands, waiting for iTunes to import my MP3 library.  iTunes, in all of its resource-hogging, inefficient glory.  I tried Microsoft; I tried so hard to make this — what I thought was between us — work.  I gave and gave, but somewhere along the line, you gave up and moved on.  I suppose it’s time for me too.

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