Last Friday my wife gave me an Apple iPod Touch as a birthday gift to replace my Zune HD. Since I recently switched to an Apple iMac system, it made sense that I also switch to an Apple-based media device since my Zune won’t sync natively with my Mac. I’ve never used an iPod before, so this was a new experience for me. If you’re into “apps”, then the iPod Touch beats the Zune hands down. There’s lots and lots of apps available and they load and run fast. The iPod has other features that seem better that what is currently available for the Zune HD (e.g., assisted GPS for use with Google Maps, better web browser and email app, etc). However, I do favor the Zune HD for use as a media player.
For example, with the Zune HD you can see much more metadata for TV shows than what you see on an iPod Touch. The Zune HD will show the show’s title, description, date aired, etc. while the iPod will only show the show’s title and a small part of the description. Also, the iPod Touch doesn’t have fast-foward/back buttons to allow skipping ahead in a show. All you have is a slider bar control that is really sensitive and difficult to use at times. In addition, when playing music all you see is a static album art image with the iPod while for the Zune you see a very nice animated graphic with moving text. Although most people don’t stare at these graphics while listening to music, it does show that someone at Microsoft had put in a lot of thought to make the Zune more polished.
Another disappointing thing is that the 4-generation iPod Touch does not have an FM radio while the Zune HD does have an HD radio built-in. So it seems to me that an iPod Touch is a a good device if you want to do more things than just play media, but a Zune HD is a far superior media player device.
Finally, I find using the iTunes software somewhat unintuitive, where I don’t understand how to control what is synced to my iPod Touch. I do see small symbols and checkboxes next to my media files, but I don’t know what that they do or mean. So, I’m having to watch some recorded training material to understand how to use iTunes more effectively. So I give the Zune Software an edge over iTunes.
What would be really great, is if the new Windows Phone 7 device could serve as a smartphone and as a Zune HD replacement. If the 7 phone had 32 or 64 GB of storage, then it would for all intensive purposes be a Zune HD that could sync with my iMac system. And to top it off, if the 7 phone had the high-resolution “retina” display that would be the icing on the cake!
It turns out that the report of the Zune Software coming to the Mac is not true according to this blog posting. There will be an Apple Mac application that will sync media from the Mac iTunes Library to the Windows Phone 7 device, but not to a standard Zune Media device.
So, it seems that Microsoft is still keeping their Zune devices segregated to the Microsoft PC world, but opening up their Phone 7 devices to the Mac platform.
UPDATE: I just downloaded and tested the Windows Phone 7 Connector app for the Mac, and it does indeed NOT work with a standard Zune HD device. It will only work with a true Windows Phone 7 unit.
All eyes are now focused on the release of the Microsoft Phone 7 devices, which has already been released in Europe and will be available in the US early next month. There’s obvious comparisons between the Zune HD and Phone 7, as their operating systems seem to have the same origins. In fact, the Zune Software is going to be used as the main conduit for syncing, purchasing, and loading material onto the Phone 7 devices (much like how Apple uses iTunes for similar functionality with their iPod/iPhone/iPad devices). So what’s up with the Zune media devices?
That’s a really good question, as there has been very little talk of new Zunes appearing for the holiday season. Currently, the only offering is the Zune HD and I’ve seen very little of those devices at my local stores. I so see lots and lots of iPods and iPads at stores like Best Buy and Target lately.
Will the Zune HD fade into extinction? Or will Microsoft take a wait-and-see approach to how well Phone 7 works out, and then build upon that technology and platform for a next-generation Zune? Similar to what Apple has with their iPhone and iPod Touch?
Earlier this summer I decided to switch from a Quad Core Windows 7 machine to an Apple iMac desktop. If you want more details to why I made the switch, you can read my blog postings on the Coho Site. Since making the switch, I’m still using my Windows 7 desktop machine for recording TV shows using a TV Tuner card and Cable set top box, and the converting the videos to WMV format for my Zune HD. So the only reason my Windows 7 desktop is still alive is for recording TV shows and syncing with my Zune HD.
My desire is to shutdown my Windows 7 desktop at some point, so I needed to find a way to record TV shows on my Apple iMac. Now, my new iMac desktop is a fully integrated system, with a 27″ LCD screen that houses the main motherboard, hard drive, and DVD drive. So I needed to find a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) device that uses a USB connection to the computer. The best device for the job is the Elgato EyeTV HD, specially designed for the Apple Mac systems. I’ll talk more about the EyeTV HD device and software on my Coho Site, but basically I’m able to do the same thing as with my Windows 7 machine so far as scheduling TV shows for recording and automatically convert the recordings to iPhone/iPod/iPad format (m4v).
As I’ve mentioned in a previous posting, I’ve decided to switch from a Zune HD to an Apple iPod Touch for easier compatibility. This was before Microsoft’s announcement about the native Zune software for the Mac OS X, and it’s a bit too late as my wife has already purchased an Apple iPod Touch as a birthday gift for my birthday next week. In any case, I’d rather have a simpler, fully integrated system and than try to hack a system together that ties a Microsoft Zune to an Apple iMac system. I’ll certainly try out the Mac Zune Software, but in the end I’ll probably stick with an all-Apple solution.
One thing to note, is that the EyeTV’s software is very similar to Window 7’s Media Center software. You can download TV schedules from TV Guide (free for the first year) and search for specific shows to schedule recordings. You can also specify which shows you would like the software to automatically convert to iPhone format and have it dump the video file into the iTunes folder for syncing with your iPod Touch. So I basically have the same functionality as with my Windows 7 system setup. Once I officially get my iPod Touch I’ll report back on the differences I see between my old method and the new Mac method for recording and syncing TV shows to a multimedia device.
Looks like Microsoft will be releasing a beta version of the Zune Software for the Mac OS X on October 24th, 2010. Microsoft’s plan is for new Windows Phone 7 users to use this software for syncing music, videos and apps to the phone device, so no one is entirely sure that it will work with the Zune devices.
Once the beta is available, I will certainly give it a spin and see if I can sync my videos, podcasts, and music to my Zune HD.