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Doug's Mailbag: iPod or Zune, More

When it comes to being cool, popular opinion says the iPod trounces the Zune, but what do you think? Readers share their media player of choice:

I love my Zune just for the fact that it is not Apple. I cannot stand anything to do with Apple and refuse to support them in any way.

Sorry, I can't help you put lipstick on this pig. I'm a proud owner of four iPods (if you count my iPhone) and they all perform flawlessly, even though some of them are several years old. Perhaps I am more careful with mine than your teenagers are.

If they lowered the Zune price to $10, I still would not need one. I think the attitude that it's just "a small drive that stores and plays media files" is one reason why Apple owns the market instead of Microsoft.

I love my Zunes. I have an 80GB and a 4GB. The software is great and there's no better deal around than Zune Pass. I'm not a fan of the iPod, and if MS discontinues the Zune, I'll be left without a device with enough capacity to hold my whole music collection.

By the way, consider yourself lucky to have bought only three dead iPods. My 16-year-old niece is on her eighth. She's got about 2,000 songs with the Apple DRM, and would have switched to a different brand long ago if not for that.

I am not a big digital toy guy. I spend nine to 12 hours a day up to elbows in database servers and I don't really need to mess with electronic computer-type junk when I get home. A year-and-a-half ago, my son bought me an iPod as a joke for Christmas and I was a bit perplexed about what to do with it. Eventually, I put all my music collection on it and started listening to it at work in the server room to cover the noise. Now it goes everywhere with me; I use it in the computer room and it rides around the farm and the woods stuck in the visor of my truck. No case. It always works. I have dropped it, kicked it. And my grandson, the 2-year-old, sucks on it. No trouble at all. Ever. If you have had three of them die, you should either stop buying cheap knock-offs, or review your use of electronic devices. Especially if you are 0 for 3.

The only person I know who had a Zune found it to be somewhat problematic and gave it away. Which was OK since he got it as a door prize at a Microsoft software conference. I don't know anyone who has bought a Zune. My view on Apple has always been that it is a cult not a computer, but the iPod that I thought I would never use lets me listen to the 4,750 songs I have collected over the last 50 years and take them with me wherever I go.

Love the Zune. Both my wife and I have Zunes. The unlimited music subscription (Zune Pass) is great, plus you get to keep 10 songs a month. I don't care if my Zune is cool or not; it's inexpensive and you get a lot more music than you would purchasing songs off iTunes.

And I can't believe you were trying to compare a 1GB iPod shuffle at $50 to an 8GB Zune with a full screen. Booo!

I bought a 30GB Zune a little over a year ago. I really hated the way the Zune software worked. It was difficult to build playlists that worked the way I wanted. You could waste a couple of hours just setting up and loading four or five playlists. It didn't like to load all the tracks if you had large files. It really wasn't drag-and-drop. I like to see folders when I transfer files, not some proprietary software that is FULL of advertising.

I finally had enough and gave it to my teenage daughter. The drive went out about four months later. I can't say that I will miss it.

I had a Zune for about six months, and it was sold only for economic reasons. I loved the hardware design, the simple and functional user interface, the Zune PC software, and the service itself. It's only because these devices were born in the shadow of the iPod that they never gained a significant foothold in the market.

I've had great experience with iPods. I have a well-used second- or third-gen hard drive iPod that still does its thing when I bother to charge it up. The other four I have are all flash-based and continue to work just fine. Even the first-gen shuffle still works great, holding enough of a charge to let me use it for a while once every six months or so (the display on the Nanos makes them much more desirable). Of course, any abuse makes them vulnerable, though the only abuse I can see the shuffle exposed to is severe crushing pressure or, I guess, toilet damage. But the hard drive ones only take one good drop to be useless, especially when they are not encased in something bounceable (definitely not kid-friendly)

As for Zunes, I have talked myself out of them two or three times. I think it has a good hardware design but very poor software design and weak marketing. If it wasn't for the "apparent" simplicity of iTunes (including the broad selection of $.99 songs) and the very hip TV commercials, the iPod would never have seen the incredible success it has. So I think if Microsoft had more effectively placed the product in TV shows and in the hands of "popular" kids/sports people, they would have had a shot. But the time has passed for the whole audio product category -- time to move on to a touch competitor with Xbox tie-ins. The Zune's window has closed.

My daughter loves her Zune and her friends prefer the Zune. I don't know where to get an iPod of any usable size for 50 bucks, but I know the Zune was cheaper (from Best Buy) for 80g and it has been really reliable, while her friends' old iPods languish in drawers (only because they can't bring themselves to toss them in the trash). Everyone is getting Zunes around here so that they can share/sync with each other. It would make a difference if Microsoft would seriously market the Zune (hopefully, not using whoever was behind the marketing disaster for Vista).

But what do I know? I wouldn't have thought anyone would buy the Kindle for even half of what it costs.

The Onion recently made a dig at the iPhone and some of its more rabid fans. A couple of readers say it's a nice enough product, but not without its flaws:

iPhones are really cool. Just don't try to get "expert" help at an Apple store. I had a client with an iPhone and Gmail account. She needed to get her contacts out of the iPhone and into another account because she could not recover her Gmail password. She waited hours for a few of the Apple "geniuses" to tell her it was impossible. They were correct, unless she purchased an iPhone app for 99 cents. I told her to tell them about the app but she preferred to pay me an exorbitant rate to try to get them to help again. Once she purchased the app, the transfer was trivial. The "geniuses" should have known.

Apple makes wonderfully stable products that are limited in scope and support options.


I recently bought an iPhone and was impressed by the simplicity of operation. But I hate the proprietary nature of iTunes and its limitations. For this reason, I will think long and hard before buying another one. I wonder what the EU will do about this?

Finally, these readers may not completely love IE 8, but they like it better than the alternatives:

I'm running XP Pro 64-bit and I think IE 7 was more stable than IE 8 but I'm not willing to go back (yet).

I am using IE 8 as my browser in spite of the fact that the others (Chrome, Firefox) appear to run faster. They are not anywhere near as complete, unless you want to fiddle with add-ons or anything not intuitive (for a longtime Windows user).

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send a message to [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/05/2009 at 1:17 PM


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