Today, I fulfilled my dutiful obligations as an open-minded journalist (ha!)/hard-core masochist and purchased a Microsoft Zune to replace my SanDisk Sansa as my music subscription device of choice. (I am a fan of the subscription model, in case you're wondering.) The Zune device itself is truthfully pretty slick: the interface is responsive and intuitive, not to mention purdy. It's a little bulky, granted, but the outer-casing is smooth and it feels comfortable and "right" in the hand. The controls are a bit sloppy -- plasticky and noisy -- but they work as expected.
My real gripe here, that kinda ruins the deal for me and I'm sure for a lot of you, is the craptacular suckiness of the Zune Marketplace. First, as Engadget adequately reported: install is a pain. I had no errors, but just the amount of work involved was exhausting. Then I bought a Marketplace subscription, and lo-and-behold: some of my -- nay, most of my -- favorite bands are nowhere to be seen. And other albums I've searched for (ie, Radiohead) require that you purchase them, even if you have a subscription. (And the album price isn't even in dollars -- it's in Microsoft's convoluted points scheme.) Some albums -- ie, This Providence -- offer most of the songs for download, but the most popular (in this case, "The Road to Jericho...") you're only able to get if you actually buy the whole album. That leaves me asking: With all of these limitations, what the hell is the point of actually buying a subscription?
So not only have I graciously donated a buck to Universal for simply buying a Zune, they've decided to screw me over by sabotaging the $15/month subscription they're dreadfully eager to impose on customers.
I was cheering Microsoft on here: As I mentioned, I'm a fan of subscription services, and the Zune device isn't so bad. I wanted to see some decent competition, and I want to see Apple add a subscription option to iTunes. But they totally screwed this one up, and no amount of prettiness will save them. Microsoft, fix your Marketplace and your subscription details, then we'll talk. Until then -- stay away. Stay far, far away.
(Stay tuned for my Zune vs. iTunes comparison. Post any questions you'd like me to cover in the comments below.)