So, the Zune HD has been out for a few days now. I've had mine for a bit longer, but wasn't able to activate it for use until Tuesday morning like everyone else. So, what do I think?
- Form factor and feel are awesome. This device feels much “bigger” than it really is. Finally a “pocket” device that I can put in my pocket without fear of smashing.
- Interface is gorgeous. Yes, the iPod has been outclassed (in interface at least). There is a lot of stuff that pops up as you use it that you weren't looking for. Pure eye candy here.
- Zune Pass is the future of media delivery. I've read a lot of complaints about how there is no hard drive version of this thing. Those people are missing the point. The power of the Zune Experience is your music in ‘the cloud.' I'll be writing a lot more on this soon, I just still have to get my mind wrapped around it. I will say this though, it is the future of content delivery and you can look at it today. Amazing.
- Microsoft finally got their act together. Microsoft is finally utilizing their ecosystem in producing a full media story and they're gonna sell a lot more and get a lot more respect that way.
- Zune.net is the best media site online today. This will probably never get picked up by the “it's cool to bash Microsoft” press but the media player interface inside of Zune.net is world class. The Podcast Directory now let's you play both audio and video content right in the site and those with Zune Passes (still got mine, still love it) can stream whatever they want to any device with Silverlight Installed. Yes, I'm streaming music on my Mac as I write this.
- The Zune HD Browser is a rock solid fast Mobile Web browser. This will excite some and frustrate others. Read the linked article at ZuneLuv.com for more on that topic.
- No Flash in the browser was a big missed opportunity. I know it wouldn't have been easy or cheap, but the processor can handle it and you could have made that browser amazing as a result.
- The App Store is obviously a last minute (and very weak) addition. I applaud Microsoft for doing it, and can't wait for the coming Twitter and Facebook clients but apps on media players are a standard now and to not give it more attention is a big miss. This will get better over time and Microsoft has shown they're fine with updating these devices with the latest and greatest but it's more silly than it is anything at this point. The “Shell Game … Of The Future” is more the makings of a bad Letterman sketch than it is something to show off your premiere device with. The good apps are the ones we had last time.
- Zune.net and the Zune Software aren't fully ready for prime time. This will improve quickly too but when you compare the speed and flash and just dang coolness and compare it to the software, it's a serious disconnect.
- No Podcasts in the device Marketplace. Since we're not talking carrier fees holding this back, Microsoft should have made that experience as cool. Feels like a budget cut issue personally.
This is the best possible (and coolest) music device I could possibly recommend. Since Zune has traditionally been “about the music” I think they did an amazing job here.
The “world of entertainment in the palm of your hand” element has great potential, and I can see where they are going, they just haven't gotten there (completely) yet. Since video doesn't totally sync up yet with the Xbox infrastructure and since the apps aren't there to make this more than a music player with a few side apps, … I can't give my thumbs up here yet.
So, as a music player – simply the best.
As a portable entertainment device – close.