Zune Software Revisited

The Zune software player has gone through an update or two since I last checked it out at the beginning of the year, so I thought I'd give it another look. Unfortunately, I'm still not impressed.

The player is responding to the media keys on my keyboard, so I can play, pause, and skip quickly. It also does the neat (and useless, but I like it, so there) trick of updating your Windows Messenger status line. And it hasn't caused my computer to blue screen (yet).

However, when I set up the software, plugged in my Sansa media player, and told Zune to watch the E:\MYMUSIC folder, it did absolutely nothing. I thought it was supposed to automatically add the files to the library? I tried dragging and dropping the files from Explorer to Zune, but still nothing happened. It wasn't until I selected the files in Explorer, right-clicked, and said "Play with Zune" that the Zune player would play the files. It still didn't add them to the library, but it did at least create a playlist of all the files.

There are still features that are just missing. Automatic volume leveling, quiet mode, a graphic equalizer, crossfading, a mini-mode... These are all features that I can remember being built-in to programs for years, and are, in fact, built-in to Windows Media Player.

Now, when I first started writing this post, it was about a week ago, and as I was checking the Zune.net forums to see if I was the only one to complain about this, I noticed that Zune 3.0 was to be released very shortly. New features, including crossfading, were coming. So I decided to wait until now to install the new version and finish this post.

Unfortunately, if there are any new features, they seem to be reserved for the Zune device itself, as the desktop player is almost entirely unchanged.

I'm not suggesting the Zune team reinvent the wheel. There's no point. What they should be doing is making this a WMP plug-in. Not only would I, as a user, be able to take advantage of the features that already exist in WMP, but I could also download and/or purchase other plug-ins for WMP that enhance my music however I like, and I'd still have the "Zune Social" connection.

I've posted this suggestion in the Zune wishlist forum, and basically the response I got back was, "The Zune team couldn't do everything they wanted with the software within the confines of a WMP plug-in." To which I say, "Do they have to?" Keep their software with whatever it does as a separate app. Heck, all I really want is a plug-in for WMP that updates my Zune card with my plays, but let me use WMP as my player.

I suppose what I'm asking is not entirely reasonable. The Zune Social is meant for people who own Zunes and is meant to interact with Zunes. I don't expect any sort of DirectX plug-in that adds the PC games I play to my Xbox Gamercard, as that is meant for people who own Xboxes and is meant to interact with Xboxes. Still, it seems almost cruel to have a taste of this "social experience" thing and have it be so crippled when it could be solved by the simplest little piece of code.

*sigh* Maybe I'll check on it again in another nine months...

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