iPod, Sansa, Zune

SansaOf all the portable media players I have used (and thats lots), none compares very favorably to the iPod. 

But as of late, the gap between them is closing:

Today, long time Apple buff David Pogue gave a pretty nice review to the Zune. And I’ve spoken to many Sansa users who are very happy with that as their musical gadget of choice.

Its funny to me that Apple spent so many years as the oddball, anti-establishment PC. Now, Steve Jobs has become THE MAN, and other mainstream companies like Sandisk and Microsoft  have become the plucky contrarian device makers.

Its somewhat amusing.

Today’s NYT had two articles about burgeoning iPod comptitors:  The new SanDisk Sansa View, and the revised Microsoft 2nd Generation Zune.

The Times noted the new SanDisk Sansa View compares favorably to the iPod Nano from Apple, at least on paper:

The View comes in 8-gigabyte ($150) and 16-gigabyte ($200) versions, while the Nano has 4 gigabytes ($150) or 8 gigabytes ($200). The View has a 2.4-inch screen as opposed to a 2-inch screen on the Nano. SanDisk claims 35 hours of audio and 7 hours of video playback on a single charge; the Nano claims 24 and 5. The View has a built-in FM radio; the Nano requires a $25 accessory for radio play.

And there’s more. The Nano’s storage capacity can’t be expanded, while the View can add as many as 8 gigabytes using a MicroSD card. The View is bigger than the Nano, about the size of an open slider phone, weighing in at 2.9 ounces compared with the Nano’s 1.74 ounces. In this case, bigger may actually be better"

Zune And then Pogue’s review of the Zune was not too bad either:

"You can navigate the Zune’s bright, clear, animated software by
clicking the dial at any of its four compass points; select something
by clicking the center; and — here’s the twist — scroll through lists
by rubbing the pad’s face. Music-player companies have struggled for
years to come up with a controller as good as the iPod’s click wheel;
Microsoft, in Zune 2.0, has finally done it.  The sound quality is very good, especially if you use the 80-gig
Zune’s included earbuds. They’re not hard disks like the iPod’s and
those of the smaller Zunes; they’re soft rubber bulbs that snuggle
securely into your ear canals, sealing out the outside world. . . The 80-gig Zune is still thicker and chunkier
than its iPod rival, too."

Ipod_classic Me? I’m still an iPod guy:

Here are some of the iPod features that the Zune lacks: Games, alarm
clock, stopwatch, world clock, password-protected volume limiter,
graphic equalizer, notepad, auto-synched copy of your computer’s
calendar and address book, and Disk Mode, which lets an iPod serve as
an external drive for carrying around computer files. Above all, you may miss that thriving virtual bazaar of iPod
accessories: more than 3,000 stereo docks, cases, car adapters, and so
on, compared with only a handful for the Zune. Here are some of the iTunes software features missing in the Zune’s
software: Smart Playlists, which assemble groups of songs based on
criteria that you specify (“80’s up-tempo songs I haven’t heard in
three months”), choice of visualizers (screen-saver effects that dance
to the music), closed captioning for videos and TV, Cover Flow view,
and a graphic equalizer. The Zune store is missing a lot of iPod features, too: TV shows,
movies, audio books, monthly allowances and comprehensible pricing."

A Portable Multimedia Player Takes on the Apple Nano
NYT, November 29, 2007

Microsoft Challenges the iPod (Again)   
NYT, November 29, 2007

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What's been said:

Discussions found on the web:
  1. May commented on Nov 29

    I just ordered a Zune. I’ve always had problems with iTunes. It is just a buggy, bloated piece of crap. I couldn’t be happier to uninstall that horrible piece of nastiness.

  2. Ducky commented on Nov 29

    I finally broke down and bought my first ipod– a 80 gig ipod classic. I love the device as a handy portable music server but I agree with the above commenter about the itunes software.I was strongly considering a Mac for my next laptop but they unsold me immediately with itunes.Is there any alternative for loading/syncing an ipod?

  3. Barry Ritholtz commented on Nov 29

    I have iTunes on both the iMac at home and the Dell in the office — both work flawlessly . . .

  4. pmorrisonfl commented on Nov 29

    ITunes has worked fine on 4 different Windows machines for me. At least when Windows is working.

  5. NC Jim commented on Nov 30

    The internet radio thread is aged so I will comment here.

    After three years of rating songs on Yahoo Launchcast my database is no longer available and there does not appear to be anyway to rate songs and create a personalized station. This was a great concept and I am really pi$$ed. I think I know what happened but there is no explanation on the site. Greed is going to monitize the web to death. Wonder if I can get a rebate.

  6. NC Jim commented on Nov 30

    Disregard the last comment. I went through the initialization steps and the old ratings reappeared. Don’t understand what happened but it seems I am back to normal. Let’s hope anyway.

  7. Dave commented on Nov 30

    I too just returned an iPod Nano because iTunes was such a terrible piece of software. I could crash it at will a number of different ways, mysterious failures synching photos (and a google search turned up hundreds of other dissatisfied users running into the same problems with no apparent fix). The iPod is a well-executed device, but the related software is a disaster.

    WRT your Zune – iPod discussion … I read somewhere that for $15 a month you can fill your Zune with as many songs as you want. Thats a screaming deal compared to the Apple store, if that’s true, where $15 will get you 15 songs or 1 audiobook.

  8. mhm commented on Nov 30

    “Is there any alternative for loading/syncing an ipod?”

    Yes, there are plenty for Windows.

    I use the free Winamp Full version which has a portable player plugin, small user and very good library management. For the past ~10 years it has been my player of choice.

    Sansa could be an option but I would never touch a Zune on principle.

  9. George Darcy commented on Nov 30

    I recently bought a Nano for my daughter and getting it set up was a pain. When I bought my son an ipod previously it was easy. With this new IPOD I had trouble downloading the itunes software, the download was extremely slow and would abort in the middle. It took me 25-30 times before it worked. If you tried to download it without filling in your email address it would not download but offered no message that an email address was needed. To keep this short a neighbor had similar problems setting up his daughters nano. She had it for close to a month before I helped him get it going. I used to think Itunes was superior but I now I think realplayer is just as good.

  10. a guy called john commented on Nov 30

    there are so many annoyances w/ itunes:

    – the nifty cover art browser is a memory hog
    – the gapless playback scan is a memory hog
    – songs in the library that are stored on an external harddrive are erased if the harddrive is disconnected.
    – memory hog, memory hog, memory hog.

    apple is going down the ol’ MS route of adding useless technology and making things more restrictive/difficult. runs totally counter to their culture.

    Songbird (http://www.songbirdnest.com/) is still in development, but I hope it will ultimately become my player of choice.

    i’ll probably buy that sandisk 16GB player after christmas. i’ll click through from here barry and give you a cut.

  11. Roger commented on Nov 30

    I’ve had a 1G Sansa M240 for a some time, included everything so no expensive accessories. To my ears it sounds just as good as my daughter’s trendy-cool iPod. And I can buy 20 sets of guitar strings with the money I saved.

  12. michael schumacher commented on Nov 30

    Here;s more evidence of the music biz total lack of understanding the digital market.


    Good for Trent to say FY to Universal because they “thought” it would hurt it’s position on the Google/Viacom suit.


  13. Eclectic commented on Dec 1


    You may be right about Reznor’s choice and I respect your opinion.

    Mine is that he’s wrong and his fans will both steal him blind and possibly render him into bearing liability for any copyright infringement that happens even if he tried to prevent it.

    In the piece you referenced and linked, quoting Reznor regarding his label’s refusal to host his site according to his plans for the site:

    “Their premise is that if any fan decides to remix one of my masters with material Universal doesn’t own–a ‘mash-up,’ a sample, whatever–and upload it to the site, there is no safe harbor under the DMCA (according to Universal) and they will be doing exactly what MySpace and YouTube are doing,” Reznor wrote. ” end quote.

    Well, there is a safe harbor of course, but that safe harbor is the disingenuous wink-wink of article 512 of the DMCA. I’m not in any of these businesses. My only interest is as a concerned citizen (USA and World citizen) and thus merely as a commentator regarding copyright property rights.

    I’m sure the label clearly understands that 512 is only a wink-wink and wouldn’t want to just rely on mindless automatic systems to prevent fan/participant uploads of illegally remixed material, because they know those uploads will happen. Even one instance of such would deflate any claims they might have that other carriers fail to be diligent to prevent “automatically accepted” uploads of the label’s own copyright protected material without their consent… only to attempt to fall back on 512 when their fingers are caught in the cookie jar.

    He says the label wants him to bear the liability, and indeed, where Reznor says that illegal remixes “will be rejected during the approval process,” he’s sort of saying he won’t need to rely on 512 as his safe harbor but would employ some proactive procedure instead for filtering out the copyright infringement beforehand.

    I’m not questioning his intentions, which I perceive to be good and worthy, but he’d better have an intelligent and active staff of diligent electrono-gatekeepers (while he’s trying to make music and run his business affairs), or, as the label probably is sure will happen, the site will end up with such uploads.

    Reznor’s statement of his intentions for active participation in “rejecting” examples of copyright infringement would then just doom his opportunity to defend copyright claims from owners, if and when they come. If he failed to prevent them in an active “approval process” he couldn’t then defend that process as being a mindless and automatic one. That’s the only safe harbor basis that 512 provides (the rights to “forgiveness” against liability claims for automatic failures when procedures are promptly employed to remove the offending material) and he’d be essentially waiving it from the start with such active procedures proclaimed.

    The procedures (wording) of Article 512 of the DMCA is where the failure is (that was Congress that screwed that up) … and in my opinion anyone who doesn’t recognize that is either an active or passive proponent of wink-wink theft of copyrighted intellectual property.

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