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Ipod Vs Zune

A blip on the radar, or a threat on the horizon?

Mac: Hi PC, what have you got there?

PC: Oh, this? It’s just the Zune 80. Microsoft’s answer to YOUR iPod.

Mac: Oh yeah? That’s cool! Can I have a look at it?

PC: Sure thing. Yeah, it’s got all the stuff the cool kids like these days.

Mac: That’s great. Good to see you moving with the times, PC. What kind of music do you have on here?

PC: Music? Well, I haven’t actually synced it with my computer yet.

Mac: Oh you’ve got WiFi. Hey, I wanna show you this awesome clip I found on Youtube

PC: Youtube?

Mac: Wait – you don’t have the Internet? Well, that’s okay, we can look at it on my iPod Touch, the original AND the best…

This might be how a new Apple advertisement might run now that Microsoft has released the Zune 4, 8, and 80 on October 2. This new portable media player is predicted to ‘cannibalise’ other MP3 players on the market – but will it even make a dent in Apple’s domination of the media player market?

So, PC, tell me about your Zune


The Zune comes in a 4, 8 and 80 gigabyte size. The 3.2 inch, full-colour screen is a larger than the iPod Nano, but lacks the touch-screen sensitivity that has made the iPod Touch famous.

The Zune runs on Windows CE and supports JPEG for images, WMV for videos and MP3, AAC, WMA Pro and WMA standard for sound files.

The Zune also has all the stock features of a good media player:

• A user-friendly square navigation pad, with touch sensitivity for scrolling • A home menu with options for music, video, pictures, radio, community and other settings • Build-you-own playlist without connecting to a computer • FM radio


WiFi is becoming a staple ingredient for all new portable media players. The Zune’s allows users to sync their music, podcasts and videos with their computers via a wireless dock. But you can’t surf the net or purchase music with Zune’s WiFi.

So why have WiFi if you’re not going to do something constructive with it, PC? The answer is that PC has discovered social networking.

Zune’s free online music community can be accessed from its main menu. ‘Zune cards’ allow users to connect to each other and view recently played or popular tracks. The Zune also has ‘3x3 song sharing’, which allows users to play a shared song (only) three times.

In addition, the Zune Marketplace is Microsoft’s version of iTunes – an online music store which integrates with the Zune, but cannot be accessed through WiFi.

The Marketplace has three million songs, podcasts and music videos, but no videos (at this stage). Coinciding with the release of the new Zunes the Marketplace launched over one million Digital Rights Management-free MP3 tracks. Prices are competitive at about 98 cents a track, but customers must use an over-complicated system of points to make purchases.

Apple versus Microsoft – the market

There is no question that Apple produces the most advanced and popular portable media players on the market. All other portable media players are, inevitably, measured against the iPod.

It seems that with the Zune, Microsoft isn’t doing anything revolutionary. While the new Zunes are a great leap forward for Microsoft, pose very little threat to the more advanced, popular and user-friendly iPods.

So how can PC bulk up a little more to deliver that knock out blow against Mac?

At the moment, it seems the best Microsoft can do is match iPod’s prices. The Zune is a bargain at the $250 mark. Beyond that, the Zune just doesn’t cut it: Not as good looking, not as many applications, no internet and Marketplace is a cheaper version of iTunes, dressed up as a social networking site.

The biggest blow to Microsoft’s chances against Apple, though, is authenticity.

The iPod is designed by people who love media players for people who love playing media. The Zune, on the other hand, appears to be manufactured by people who aren’t quite sure where the future of portable media players is headed. It straddles the line, hesitant to dive into WiFi internet or take a step back and simplify.

There’s no doubt that the Zune will be popular with the anti-Apple crowd, but whether that crowd is big enough to pose a real threat to Apple is yet to be seen…