Category: Zune

Things have changed a lot (once again) since my last update in September of 2010.

Here’s a breakdown of the big events (focused on the professional side):

  1. Accepted a promotion on the Xbox LIVE team I was working on in September 2010.
  2. Asked for a demotion May 2011 due to my work/life balance being completely out of whack.
  3. Accepted a job offer (still contract) on a different Xbox team in August 2011. It was offering twice the pay, and seemed like a good idea at the time.
  4. Had my contract ended on that team in December 2011. I won’t go into details on why, since it would make them look pretty bad.

The logic I was given for the 4th item still makes me do this about every other day:

I am uncertain as to what my next step should be. I was so confident that Microsoft was where I wanted to be; and I made the classic mistake of not having a backup plan. I spent the last decade preparing myself to work at Microsoft. I tested every piece of software they would let me, made contacts, and even some good friends.

Don’t get me wrong folks, I’m still a huge fan of Microsoft. I still rock a Zune, carry a Windows Phone, and prefer Xbox over other platforms.

I think a portion of why I feel so uncertain has to do with my Dad. The two things he drilled into me growing up were, “Always work like you’re trying to work yourself out of a job,” and “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.” I took those concepts to heart and have tried to make sure that I apply them to every position I’ve ever worked.

For retail this meant studying product specifications, making sure everything in my section was in its place, and that customers were given the correct information. For the answering service/dispatch I made sure that account updates were correct, other agents were notified of changes, and I was available at all hours in case they were short on staff. For Microsoft I always provided my honest feedback, always made my position on security known, and made it clear that it is possible to advocate for both the customer AND Microsoft at the same time.

I was talking to my Dad after my contract ended in December, and he told me something that has actually left me a bit shaken. The rules that he had given me, that had been set so firmly in my mind, no longer apply. He explained to me that employees and customers can no longer afford to be loyal to employers or brands. The reason being that employees and customers are now viewed as nothing more than disposable commodities, numbers on a spreadsheet. Companies no longer care if you’re competent, but if you’re obedient and are qualified on paper. They do not care how long you’ve worked for them, or the knowledge you have gained in that time. If you cannot sit down, shut up, and play the game you’re out.

This leaves me in a situation where I’m having to re-evaluate everything I have taught myself to believe in when it comes to professional ethics. What is the value in doing things correctly if it leaves you unemployed? Where is the benefit of having experience if you are punished for that experience? What is there to gain in being loyal if no one cares?

These are the questions that keep me awake late at night, long after I should be asleep.


Do I keep pushing for the life I thought I wanted, or do I start over?


Zune HD

This post is going to be more of a ‘professional’ review than the earlier ‘Thoughts on Zune HD…’ article.  It will contain my thoughts on it now that I own one and can actually review it fully.

To quote the last article, “I’ve been a huge fan of Zune for the last few years. A fan of the software, device, and web presence they’ve created. Now they are looking to integrate things more deeply with the Xbox 360, and also step up the functionality of the device.”

Here are my observations now that I have some time spent with the device.  They are in no particular order.

1.  I decided to skip on waiting for a 64GB model to show up. I waited almost 3 months, and figured it was time to just get one.  What really prompted this was the fact that Amazon has an amazing deal going on.  If you sign up for a year of service at $14.95 per month (which totals about $180 for a year) they will give you an instant $100 off coupon.  The catch is that you can’t cancel the service for that year.  In total for the Zune itself I paid $186.67 with Next Day delivery.

2.  There are a few UI inconsistencies and things missing from older versions of the Zune.  For instance when performing a sync with the device, there is no percentage listed on the HD.  Earlier models had this, so why is it missing?  Background wallpapers, also MIA.  MS has claimed it won’t work well on the HD & that we get to use them on the lock screen. I say why not give us the option?  I however do retract my earlier issue with having a tactile control interface.  The touch-only option works really well.  The only thing I miss is from the old Zune in that respect is volume control that doesn’t require the screen.

3.  Another oddity I found is that their web browser while nice has some serious issues, even with the website.  I tried to post on the forums there and could do everything but enter post in the text box.  I was also unable to ever successfully login to my bank.  I hope they plan on releasing more updates to make the browser more compatible with sites.  Especially in the case of the forums, that’s just embarrassing.

4.  Microsoft has stuck with the WiFi only option here, and did not pursue any sort of 3G connection.  This is truly a shame as it would have made the device unique in its market segment, just as the Kindle is for eBook devices.  As I mentioned in the previous article imagine this scenario.  You’re on a bus and hear a song on the HD Radio that you’ve been trying to track down forever, and you buy it or get it on Zune Pass right there.  That to me would be just as powerful an experience as when I bought my first book directly from the Kindle while on a train.  No waiting until you have a WiFi connection, just instant gratification.

5.  So far on the app front, I’m of two minds.  I feel that the apps they have delivered as of the latest 4.3 update are solid apps.  They work very well, and are fun to play in the case of the games.  In fact I’m hooked on the bowling game.  The downside is that almost 3 months in we have barely over a dozen apps, of which only 3 aren’t games.  Where’s a good Netflix app?  Where’s a good app for surfing the XBox Live Marketplace?  What about a 1vs100 interface for the Zune?  I’m certain it could handle it via WiFi.  There’s so much potential here, and so little initiative taken.

6.  The last topic I want to touch on is Digital Copy support..  It’s one thing that Zune has been missing from the beginning, and they really need to sort it out.  I have so many movies with the Digital Copy logo on them, and I can’t even use them.  The Zune doesn’t work with the old ‘PlaysForSure’ format (gotta love that name eh?) and Zune hasn’t made an attempt (at least publicly) to make this work.  I’m fairly certain it has to do with selling videos via the Zune Marketplace.  This is a huge bullet point that the iPod can still tout over the Zune.  I want to watch the new Star Trek movie on my Zune.  The connection where I currently live is only 320k/64k.  Yes it’s very painful, and to be honest makes downloading a movie from the Zune Marketplace very painful.  Why can’t I just authorize my digital copy for the Zune?  It works on Windows Media Player, and hundreds of other devices.  Why should I have to pay for the movie again?

Why, Zune, why?

Thoughts on Zune HD…

Zune HD

Think of this post as an editorial and not as a ‘professional’ review. You can also consider it a small view into how my brain works. Trust me, it will be useful if you choose to read more of my rantings later. I should also note this post is the first here, so don’t go looking for a ‘Hello this is me’ post. You won’t find it 😉

I’ve been a huge fan of Zune for the last few years. A fan of the software, device, and web presence they’ve created. Now they are looking to integrate things more deeply with the Xbox 360, and also step up the functionality of the device.

I’ve looked at the current information available at this point and I have a few observations I’d like to share.

1. They haven’t released official details on what the storage capacities and price points will be. If there isn’t at least a 64GB version at launch then I’m going to hold off until there is. I already have a Zune 30, and to be honest I need more space.

2. At this point Microsoft needs to be jumping ahead of the competition not meeting them halfway. This device needs 3G built-in (ala the Kindle from Amazon) to allow the Zune Marketplace to really shine. Imagine you’re on a bus and you hear a song you like while using the HD Radio. Instead of just tagging it for later download you can buy it right there. This is why the Kindle makes a killing for Amazon.

3. Why isn’t Microsoft giving users who like tactile controls an option here? To me a simple 5-way controller (once again ala the Kindle) would be an easy option, and would take up the same amount of space as their ‘Home’ button.

In my opinion, if they add those features, they will finally have a device worthy of the ‘iPod Killer’ moniker that fans have been throwing around the last 3 years.

Now at this point I’m opening this up to the few who will read this asking how do you feel?

Do you agree with me that Microsoft just needs to take a serious leap here with a monster device, or do you think they are on the right course?