When it comes to the hardware, we're pretty much set; we all now know the Zune inside and out. But how it interacts with the software, the marketplace, etc. -- that's where the magic happens. Or doesn't. We really wanted to give the Zune the benefit of the doubt. We hoped installing the Zune software and getting our player running would be as seamless and painless as getting iTunes and an iPod running on your machine, since that is, after all, what it's up against. (Granted, not even iTunes is bereft of major problems on major releases.) Unfortunately, the reality of our experience with the first version of the Zune software this afternoon is much like that of many version 1 software experiences. It sucks. Read on to see what happened.

So, before we get started, a few caveats. Our machine is a Windows Media Center XP 2005 box -- light use, basically our media server and occasional Engadget test bed. We weren't anticipating any problems. Our software is version 1.0.5341.0 -- the release version of the Zune software that came bundled with the player. Let's go through the install, shall we?

Ok, go!

Thanks, we're glad to be here too, we guess. Hit next.

Yep, we accept.

Waiting... it's doing something, but it doesn't tell us what. It's a minute or two.

Oh, ok, it's starting to install the Zune software. No install location options, just already going. Nevermind the fact that we put our applications on a different drive than our Windows install.

Yeah boyeee.

Ok, all done. Let's have big fun like these peeps!

First up, we have to make a connection. So let's plug in our Zune.

Really? A home on another computer? We've never touched this Zune in our life. No matter, it's a review unit, maybe they tested it before shipping it to us. (Come to find out, it supposedly gives that prompt always so long as the Zune is in guest mode. Got it.)

Let's make it a full-fledged Zune, shall we? Give it the real review, none of that guest BS. Oh, wait, see how that Next button is orange? That's because this is where the software crashes for the first time. So we have to start over from make a connection -- but if your Zune is still plugged in, the software won't see it. So kill the process, unplug the Zune, restart the software, plug the Zune back in. Ok. We did this a couple more times before we learned our lesson.

We'll take guest mode then, thanks.

Ok, good, we made it past. Let's do express. It is, after all, recommended.

Hmm, let's stream some media to our Xbox 360. Music and video for now.

Great, looks like we're all set. Let's get to it.

Oh, wait, no, now we have to make a Zune Tag. We don't really want to, so let's cancel and go straight to the store.

Yes, we're sure we want to cancel!

Ah, the app, finally! We've been waiting to fool around with this. Upper right, that's our Zune. It's got some content, as you can see.

Ok, first thing we want to do? Obviously: options! Crap, as soon as we click the options button, it crashes. (Note top bar, not responding.)

Ok, we have to restart. So let's create that Zune Tag after all. Bummer, apparently there's already another Ryan using a Zune. Since there's some Xbox Live integration, however, it looks like you can use your Zune Tag as your Xbox Live tag, and vice versa.

While we were figuring out which tag to use, we were suggested some pretty awesome(ly awful) names:
  • TwinightRyan (sp)
  • UprightRyan
  • GrizzlyRyan
  • PraisedCloud
  • ScapularWorm and
  • HangingCheetah
  • PricyRacketeer
  • GutlessStudent
  • WontedSum
  • PeeweeDust
Do we LOOK like a scapular worm to you? Don't answer that.

Ok, we picked one that doesn't exist. But now we need a Windows Live ID too. Thankfully we had that in the form of a Hotmail account. Seriously though, how long is this going to go on?

Ok, enter your Live ID, got it.

What? Now there's account information we have to put in?

What? Now we're required to hand over our phone number? Umm, ok we're just gonna put a dummy number in there.

Sweet, finally, now I get more options of things to do. Zune Marketplace, buy MS points, or get a sub. The sub won't yet work since the store isn't fully active until the 14th, so let's go with the points.

Ahh, Microsoft points. Xbox 360 users know ye well. So much for buying songs in straight American currency without buying blocks of points, but hey, we'll live.

Ok, we've seen enough, let's back out of here and go hit the player app. Sorry, can't, application crashes here.

Ok, so software is restarted, let's sign on.

Nice, that's what we've been waiting to see ever since the options dialogue crashed our computer. We tried the options menu again -- and it crashed it again. So we're not touching that anymore. Let's keep moving.

These are the loaded tracks on the player. We are a little bummed there's no loaded cover art, especially since it's there in the Zune. And yes, they did tag that C.S.S. song improperly as CSS, creating another artist listing. Man oh man, devil's in the details, ain't it?

Ok, back to the store. We can't actually buy anything, but it looks nice. All the standard stuff.

Now we're over in our videos library -- no videos indexed yet, though. So let's add some.

Specify your indexed folders.

Well, it didn't index our DivX Daily Show eps (big surprise). Let's try a folder with WMV video.

Hey, there's Dave Zatz again! That's not a live preview, but it works.

We're playing video -- you can't see because of the screen cap, but it's playing, and it looks good!

And now in the upper right we can see the audio CD burning dialogue.

But now when we switched over to the Zune it's missing, just not there. We unplug it, plug it back in, and...

This screen pops up. But the Zune is still not showing. However, if we shut down the app, plug it back in, then it'll pop up just fine and show the device in the player. Whatever.

See, there it is.

We try to go back and reinstall the software -- maybe it was just a funky install or something. Nope, can't reinstall, it's up to date.

Fine, we're going to uninstall it.

We have no idea what this one is, but it popped up after that initial uninstall dialogue.


Icing on the cake: restart after uninstall. No, sorry, the icing on the cake is the crash our computer took after we hit this, causing our RAID 5 array to crap out and spend a few hours rebuilding.

But just to be EXTRA sure, we tried the software on a second PC we had laying around. Besides 20 minutes to install (huh?) it worked just fine. Expect more from that PC in the near future!

In the mean time, we let Microsoft know what was up and they were pretty quick to help figure out what was behind this whole nightmare install. We don't yet know, but hopefully it's something small and limited to our Media Center PC -- because if it isn't, tomorrow's big launch is going to be a comedy of errors straight up tragedy.

Update: I, Ryan, reinstalled on the PC that was giving me so many problems -- after the RAID array rebuilt, that is -- and it went just fine. I'm using it right now in fact. But then Peter's install (Vaio laptop) went south just like my first install did. Same crash errors and everything. So we're two for two!

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Installing the Zune... sucked