Portable Perfection – An Imperfect Postmortem
When one glances upon the ZuneHD, it is impossible to steer yourself away from that beauty, for it oozes with sexiness, and boy oh boy, it is Sexy alright !
And if people can’t remember, Zune makes up only about under 2% of the overall portable media player market share. And why would have Microsoft put in so many efforts and resources to make a iPod Touch killer ? The answer is as plain as daylight. Microsoft doesn’t entire a market unless its sure of what it’s doing, and if its beaten the first time, it comes back again, packing some serious stuff. But has MS emulated its Xbox success story here with the ZuneHD ? It is yet to be seen considering that it has much going for it, but Apple’s device is well placed and priced much more competitively.
Just how competitive is the iPod touch compared to the ZuneHD ? For starters the ZuneHD is actually cheaper when you compare them price-capacity wise, but the iPod Touch has the advantage of having an ocean of Apps, right from the fun yet useless Fart apps to the quintessential Productivity apps. And the iTunes ecosystem is no match for any competitor, moreover the recent upgrade makes it a device of its own, and in many ways, a cellphone radio-deficient iPhone 4; In light of this, MSFT needs to ramp up its Zune software and put out a OSX version and stop alienating Macs ! ZuneHD’s UI which in recent times has been referred to as the Metro UI, which is at its heart a true digital UI. Because it doesn’t mimic the age old 3D physical buttons used in almost all UIs. The fact is even more spelled out cause the work behind it has been a lot. And the result is a drop dead, gorgeous UI that makes us question all the other companies’ efforts !
UI delineations apart, the Zune ecosystem itself is poised and supposed to stand out, cause MS pursues a subscription model built around the wonderful Zune Pass, similar to an all you can eat buffet in a high class hotel to Apple’s efforts which aren’t unlike the traditional Gourmet restaurant fare. While people might swear by their Zune Passes, it just can’t hold a candle to Apple’s behemoth of an App Store! This is one of the facts that MS is looking to rectify by throwing its weight and first party developers behind homegrown mobile development entertainment studios and investing in other 3rd party developers.
But, do applications really determine a device’s worth? Are we overlooking some of the most important facts that goes into the making of a portable product let alone a product that is supposed to be perfect ! Yes, till now we have. One of the most important features are battery life, and how does the ZuneHD hold out against its competitors ?
From my research of averaging most reviews and personal impressions from users, it lies somewhere around 30-33 hours for Audio and 8-9 hours for Video. Although, the stated battery life is true only when used in a power-saver mode, i.e., with the Wifi turned off, and lowered screen brightness (around 5%). MSFT does claim that there are battery life extending techniques, http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927710 . Not sure if they really work though !
Now, looking at the Goliath side of the competition, the iPod Touch, Apple advertises the battery life as being 40 hours for Audio and 7 hours for Video. Certainly better figures than the ZuneHD, although debatable since its an official source, and reality usually tends to fall behind official figures, as always.
In closing, I expected a lot more from Microsoft, but unlike the Xbox experience, the phrase “Portable Perfection” is just used as a marketing tagline, and not as the ultimate goal for MSFT’s Zune line of products, for updates are deficient, apps are non-existent ( save for a few ), wavering support, and an uncertain future. I’m gonna have to quote Uncle Ben again, albeit in a different manner,
“With great Hardware, comes a need for great Content”.
For once, MSFT has better hardware, but deficient software and content support, something which I never expected from them. In contrast, Apple might well be laying stake to that tagline in the upcoming years !