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okay, so i've been beating up on the zune a bit, but i still like it.  i have to say there are definitely areas where it doesn't win over ipod (i.e., size for recreational usage, etc.), but there are definitely bigger ways (and potential) that it does.

today i finally had a chance to play with the community features, when a colleage came over and asked if i wanted to 'join the social' (we had fun with that one when people asked what we were doing.  we were close to each other and while we didn't test the range, i think the 30ft estimate is a good one (may even be a bit broad).  we wanted to test a few scenarios and came up with some results.

first i sent an unprotected mp3 file that i had to his device -- only 1 song.  it took longer than expected.  when it showed up in his device it wasn't in the regular music area -- but rather the 'inbox' of the community.  and my mp3 file had suddenly been attributed with drm rights -- 3 plays within 3 days.  so that was the first test -- unprotected music.  it would appear that any content sent is always given that 3/3 drm rights applied to it -- even if it is unprotected.  you can't share video right now so we didn't even try.

next test -- he had some wma format unprotected -- sent to me -- same thing 3/3 drm applied.  he then is currently using the zunepass service (trial for now, but is $14.99 US/month for unlimited music downloads).  so he sent me an album.  nada.  zip.  nothing received.  and the message: something about rights.  wait a minute, we thought...this is zune music acquired through the zune marketplace.  we started researching and it looks like there is no clear communication about this.  the zune site indicates you can share music you purchase, and zunepass music is yours as long as you have the service.  it is vague about the "yours" part not being able to transfer.  we tried 3 albums from zunepass and none were able to transfer.  not good, i thought.  there also seems to be some speculation that the rights owners are able to determine what rights are applied to zunepass music.  that really doesn't make sense though.  if any media sent between devices always has the 3/3 drm rights, then were's the risk?  it doesn't look good that someone wanting the service cannot share in that social -- so zunepass members may not be welcome to the social.

the other thing we talked about was the lack of direct podcast/audiobook support.  sure you can rip to a format and put them on your device, but one thing i like(d) about the ipod was that when i turn it on i see: music, podcast, audiobooks.  on zune i see: music, videos, pictures.  my podcasts and audiobooks are buries under "music" (which they aren't) and then i have to be creative and do some tagging/playlisting so that they are easily discoverable.  the wmp-zune software should do this for me, in my opinion.  i suspect that is feedback being heard as well and hope there is an update.

the other thing we looked at was playlists.  i didn't notice it, but really the only playlisting going on is music.  you can create a playlist in wmp-zune for videos, but it isn't reflected on the zune.  your choices under videos on the zune are: all video, movies, music videos.  that's it.  nothing else.  that needs to be fixed to bring more continuity to the media experience.  i did manage to download videos of my friend hamid from axosoft talking with scoble -- they transfered beautifully and it was a good viewing experience.  i've never had a video portable player before, so this is my first and positive experience with that scenario.  one thing i did wish is an 'easel' accessorie so that when it is sitting on my desk i can manipulate the device for best viewing.  another colleage heard me and sure enough it is in the works: .  cool.

we then waxed philosophically about what we liked and didn't.  to me it still could've/should've been a better v1 entry.  but it was pointed out that the beauty of this is that the hardware is there -- it has the wireless, it has the hard-drive, it has the fm tuner.  so it isn't unrealistic to think that new features are simply to update without buying a new device.  in fact, they should be!  the biggest proof will be if microsoft actually does that.  my fear is that the device becomes like a cell phone -- want new features? upgrade device.  if the zune has all it needs to do great new features, we should be expecting firmware upgrades to support them.  that's one thing i don't like about apple.  my wife's nano should be able to support video from a hardware standpoint, but i'm sure if she wanted it she'd have to upgrade to nano v.next that would have it.  zune could win big here if we saw updates frequently of really cool new features.  one feature that we talked about was a community stream...so you could say hey, listen to this and just broadcast so we listen at the same time.  and video too -- imagine on a plane with 2 zunes...i click play and we are both watching a movie.  nice.  what'ya say microsoft?

i'm still struggling with dvd ripping.  i was turned on to handbrake.  i tried it and it ripped a movie to mp4 format.  i can play it in media center, i can play it in windows media player...try to add it to wmp-zune: nada...error.  try to add directly to zune device - nope: error about file not existing.  this sucks -- it is mp4 format (something zune says it supports) and plays on other areas, but not in zune.  argh.  i'm re-ripping using a different codec hoping that will be the problem.

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