Why Zune Desktop Software Kills It

Admittedly, I have had a troubled past with choosing the perfect desktop music application. With products like the iPod and iPhone, iTunes has managed to become the player of choice. But with Apple iTunes continued lack of innovation, I decided to give the Zune desktop software a second try. To my surprise, I was greatly pleased with the new, seemingly small innovations, that have managed to put the Zune software miles ahead of its Apple counterpart. Let’s take a look at what gets me excited about this up and coming player.

Visual Playback Experience

When I say visual playback experience, I mean, VISUAL playback experience. Instead of the out-dated option of only looking at the player software or just looking at visualizations, Zune has really stepped up by providing a rich visual experience. If your music is identifiable by the Zune Marketplace, you will be provided with graphics of the currently playing artist along with dynamically scrolling text with Zune Marketplace stats about the current song (screen shot below). Nice. If by chance your music is not identified, you will still be graced with a nice collage of the albums in your library which dynamically change in and out (screen shot above). On top of that, at the bottom of the player, you are provided with a graphical volume meter.

In Collection/Zune Marketplace

Once again, this is where the Zune team has went the extra step. Like I mentioned earlier with the visual features, this is purely dependent on your music being identifiable by the Zune Marketplace. That being said, if you music is identified by the software, and you browse the Zune Marketplace, all music that you own will show an ‘In Collection’ tag rather than a buy tag. Wow. To know they would go this extra step instead of allowing you to re-purchase content is really satisfying. If you click on the ‘In Collection’ tag, it takes you directly to the music within your library.

SmartDJ

This is obviously the Zune answer to the iTunes Genius feature. And weather their recommendation system is better or worse is yet to be seen. But once again, what is really cool here is presentation. Your Zune SmartDJ playlists are based on artist rather than a particular song. They are presented as a thumbnail with an image of the artist that’s, once again, pulled from the Zune Marketplace database.

The Social

This is a feature that all music players should have. And with growing popularity of services like last.fm or iLike, it’s quite clear that the Zune team is moving in the right direction with this feature. What is the Social? Zune Social is the social networking part of the Zune Software that displays a user’s most-played artists, favorite and recently played songs, and a list of the users friends, in addition to any comments about them. And with the addition of the Zune Marketplace subscription, you can instantly download all the songs from your firends library. What’s so cool about this is that the networked it shared with the XBOX Live friends service. So if your a XBOX Live user, you are instantly connected to all your XBOX live friends via the Zune social network. Also your Zune Card, a mini-representation of your Zune stats, is HTML embeddable. Very nice.

In Closing

Although Zune software has many innovations and features, it’s not without its faults. Often times I found that music that should be recognized by the Zune Marketplace, was not showing up. This all but kills a few of the features I mentioned above. And the lack of an Apple version isn’t helping it win any accolades either. All in all, I would definitely suggest giving this software a whirl. You may find it to be more than worth the price of admission (free).

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