Zune vs iPod Smackdown. Not quite…

Posted in ipod, Zune by Tony C on November 27, 2008

Many of the ‘fanboys’ of both Microsoft and Apple might find it contradictory that you can work for one organisation and still be a fan of the other, but fellow ‘Microsoftie’ Steve Clayton and I are members of this as it turns out not so exclusive club.  So I read with some interest Steve’s post linking to a piece giving 10 reasons why Zune beats the iPod.  A bait for flame if ever there was one.  However I’ve have been scratching my chin wondering if such as comparison really tells us anything because Apple has the Classic, Touch and iPhone all of which share features as do Zune and Windows Mobile (Smartphone and Pocket PC in old money), besides anyone who has spend more than say five to ten minutes in the world of tech and gadgets knows that ‘feature wars’ are pointless exercises at the best of times, especially now as the categories (puts on marketing hat) that devices like these fall into are blurred.

However for the sake of adding my tuppence here’s a few of my thoughts. 

Apple have 3rd party support nailed…no question.  A Black iPod Classic was purchased specifically to sit on the front of my brilliant and beautiful B&W Zeppelin.   The problem with the Classic though is that now we’re looking at laptop size capacities the interface is running out of puff despite improvements like Cover flow, search really needs looking at especially as iTunes makes some really strange decisions about categories and tagging of a significant minority of my music collection.

iTunes.  I have a bit of a love hate relationship with iTunes.  Because it’s really a Mac app posing as a Windows one it’s not, how shall I put it, an optimal experience.  OK it’s slow.  I always have to help it out with artwork and the UI is great if you use the iTunes store but not as good if you don’t.  I’m not convinced by Genius either.  Where it hits the back of the net is with podcasts, both as a listener and a producer I fall into both camps and 90% of listeners download my humble production from iTunes.  

I can’t officially buy a Zune in the UK.  I do however really like the UI and Marketplace is refreshing free of clutter, easy to use and Zune Social is a compelling USP.  It’s the podcasting shtick again that prevents me moving from like to love; it’s all the obvious professional US centric shows that get screen time and for the rest of the podcasting world you need to know the RSS feed.  And no they are not always obvious apart from the last three letters.

Whilst some might consider the inclusion of an FM radio on the Zune or lack of one on the iPod a minor issue it’s like much of this debate down to preferences and listening habits.  As an avid radio head, well Radio 4 head, Zune makes my wish come true about listening to R4 whilst on the move without having to have yet another device.  I know you can get an add on for the iPod…but why? 

In the end though unless you’re a geek, and a particular kind of geek at that, decisions about purchasing this kind of technology are rarely down to a feature by feature comparison, there is all important and endless questions about preferences, heuristics and brand that no amount of marketing or research and development can predict. 

I will take issue with one thing from Jeff Blankenburg’s post where he wrote, “…being popular just because you’re popular isn’t enough.”  Sorry Jeff but more often than not it is.

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