Zune Questions Answered (For Josh…)

Josh just posted a bunch of questions on his blog about the Zune. I don't have all of the answers, but he should have known that I was going to jump all over his post. Here you go, boss:

About Windows Media Center Integration

Q: Can Zune Marketplace purchased songs be streamed through media center extenders? What about songs from the subscription service?

A: Jeremy and I tested playing a DRMed Zune file in Windows Media Player today. It worked. That means that Zune files should play just fine through Media Center--you just need to setup WMP to monitor your Zune folders. I haven't tested this yet, but I'm confident that it will work (I've been able to play DRMed files on my extender as long as I have recent licenses for them.) Just a bit of advice though—Xbox 360 supports all media sharing now, and supports the Zune software out of the box. It's not as pretty of an interface, but you'll be better off using the Xbox 360 interface rather than the Media Center Extender.

Q: Does the Zune automatically sync with Media Center video and TV recorded content?

A: The short answer is no. You can set the Zune software to monitor folders for new video content though, so if you use a program to automatically transcode your DVR-MS files into WMV files, just tell the Zune to monitor the output folder, and voila—you have recorded TV on your device. (By the way, if you've never tried this before, you should know that transcoding an MPEG to WMV takes about one minute for one minute of video on a mid-range Pentium 4. Don't expect to do a "quick sync" right before you walk out the door if you want to watch last night's Daily Show on the bus…)

Q: Does the Zune download and properly place Album art for your music libraries (already ripped) so that you can have good album art in Media Center? 

A: Kinda. It uses the same stuff that WMP11 uses, which means that the album art stuff is spotty. It will probably scoop the art for about 65-70% of your albums. If you ripped the CD and used CDDB, the likelihood goes up. If you downloaded it from a "friend", it's highly likely that it won't work (the ID3 tag has to be correct.)


Q: How has importing libraries and playlists form iTunes worked for you?

A: Gizmodo reports that the iTunes library synced over great, along with song ratings. Not sure about playlists, although if you have problems, it'll be with Smart Playlists, not standard ones.

Q: Can you use windows media connect or the zune software to stream music between multiple computers in the house?

A: The Zune software only supports sharing to an Xbox 360. Lame. Once again, if you

Q: Do you think the Zune.net site itself should actually be more… social?  I was surprised that it didn't duplicate the forums and social networking services ala xbox.com.  They could have had playlist sharing, Zunetag pics ala gamertag pics that show the last few bands I've played, etc. I can dream right?

A: The website is bad. Not only does it not have any community features (or good support features), but doesn't even help you find where to buy a Zune. Lame. What's really lame is the inability to create and share playlists from within the Zune software (iTunes has it) or the ability to store your "library" of Zune Pass songs online. That's a killer feature of other subscription services, such as Napster, Rhapsody, or Yahoo Music (URGE doesn't have it either…)

Q: How do you like yours so far?

A: I don't have one yet, I have a Gigabeat S, which is what the Zune was based on. I've been going back and forth about buying a Zune. If I do, it will be for the following reasons:

  • Zune Marketplace is the best subscription service I've seen performance-wise. It's fast, and using a Zune, I can actually be confident that the thing will work (unlike Napster and Yahoo Music, which are buggy beyond belief.)

  • The screen is beautiful. It's big, and that's great.

  • It's durable and light. I think it's a tad too big, but it isn't going to scratch like my whimpy iPod. Honestly, I should never have to buy a plastic case for a plastic device. Apple—the iPod's pretty, but a road warrior it is not.

  • The platform is only going to get better. Microsoft might not have everything correct right now, but I've seen the speeches, and we're determined to be the best in this market. The device has features (such as the WiFi) that aren't really important right now, but could really make the thing compelling in coming months. The software is only going to get better, and I believe that the integration between Windows, my Xbox 360, and my Zune is going to be great. (It's the officeàportableàliving room trifecta that I've been dreaming about for years, slowly morphing into reality…)

Oh, and Josh. If you want to, I'd be more than happy to spend your money to buy a Zune and better flesh out this blog entry… J

Comments (2)
  1. Keith says:

    Thanks for the good info on the Zune. Can you publicly share with us when and if the Zune will support the following:

    – Audible Files?  (http://www.audible.com)

    – RSS subscripts in the software on the desktop?

    – Videos (Movies or TV) for sale in the Marketplace?

    I know, I know, but I had to ask. 🙂

  2. MSDN Archive says:

    I don’t work for the Zune team, so the entry above is all knowledge from my first-hand experiences with the Zune software and my Gigabeat Portable Media Center and other articles from around the Internet.  I actually don’t know what the Zune team is planning on doing next… 🙂

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