First off, I want to say that I'm a big IPod fan--listening to my second player right now. I even have a copy of the original ipod packaging in my office because I though Apple did such a nice job with it. I'm not ready to buy a new Zune yet but I do think the Zune folks have done a great job getting into the discussion.
I didn't start collecting music and thinking seriously about my music preferences until my early 20's. My music journey started when I was introduced to U2, Led Zeppelin, Doors, Rolling Stones, and The Cure by a new friend Kurt. Kurt was and still is a connoisseur of music who owns more albums today than I likely will ever listen to in my life. It was a real pain in the neck to get new music from Kurt. He would loan me a tape/CD for a couple weeks and occasionally put together pirated tunes on Memorex tapes. I always ended up buying the originals but the sharing model sucked. I likely still have some of his old CDs kicking around somewhere and I know I have lost many albums by turning other friends onto some new music. Sharing new music hasn’t progressed much since…
My point is—for me, music is intensely social. In many ways, I think the music we listen to is a reflection on who we are or how we want to be perceived in the world. I enjoy the opportunity to share with friends new music and get recommendations from them. Zune is interesting to me because it is the first portable music platform that provides a social experience beyond the encounter—sorry Steve Jobs I don’t think your solution of sharing headphones works for me. The idea of wirelessly transferring music and listening to it later is so cool.
Last week I went over to the local CompUSA to check it out. The interface is sleek and cool. I actually prefer the UI to that of the IPod—it felt intuitive, simple and natural. What surprised me was how much I liked the tactical feel of the player. The biggest complaint that I have for my black 30 GIG player is how trashed it looks after a few months of moderate usage. It constantly has finger prints and is pretty scratched up. The floor model of the Zune looked great even after a couple weeks of frequent fondling. I really like the sturdy feel of the IPod but the Zune felt as good if not better in my hands. I really liked the blue halo effect on the screen. The packaging was every bit as cool if not cooler than the IPod box. As a connoisseur of design, I was impressed with product.
Strangely, the IPod feels almost like an executive toy while the Zune and its packaging feels a little more edgy and urban. Now that so many people have an IPod it doesn’t feel as unique and interesting as it once was. It will be interesting to see if Apple can maintain the IPod “cool” factor in the face of market domination.
I doubt Zune will kill the IPod but I tell you this—if my friends had a Zune, my IPod would be on eBay.