New Zune Firmware

Before I talk about the bad points (of which there are many) I do have to state that there are some welcome additions to the firmware. Firstly the whole experience feels faster, smoother and things like the wireless sync; podcasts and the go to artist option will be used and appreciated by many.

However there are so many other glaring problems and really bad decisions that you have to wonder who they actually get to road test these things before releasing them. I’m not going to go into them all but here are three which shows why the saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” should be tattooed on all Microsoft employees.

The first thing that strikes you is the bizarre gigantic font they have chosen to use for the main menu. This is a small seven item list which you now have to scroll to see all the options. Totally pointless, how can this possibly have seemed like a good idea?

Secondly when you are scrolling down a long list of items, say a list of artists, you previously had a large letter appear on the right side of the screen to denote the first letter of the artist of where you where in the alphabet – simple and really helpful. Now this large letter is shoved to the left of the screen and is now tiny in comparison which makes it much harder to use.

Thirdly and one of the most annoying “downgrades” as expressed by a huge number of Zune owners in the last few days is the new and unimproved rating system. The old system allowed you to choose whether to rate an item or not, and if you did you could rate it from 1 to 5 stars. The new system allows you to either not rate an item or to give it an “I like it” or an “I don’t like it”, denoted by a heart or a broken heart.

Now aside from the rather feminine use of hearts, the new system only allows for three states whilst the old and infinitely better star rating allowed for 6 states – so we’ve now got half the states and this is somehow supposed to be better? I don’t know about you but I think some tracks are excellent whilst some are just good, OK poor or bad and I’d like to reflect this for later selections. This new rating system is just so ridiculously over simplistic, and it’s not as if we are not used to a five star rating system as it is used everywhere including in Microsoft’s own software products.

I have no objection for them making a new rating system but why deny their loyal user base from still using the old tried and tested 5 star rating system. All it needed was an option in the settings to choose either “advanced” for the 5 stars or “basic” for the hearts. Then any item rated 3-5 could be assigned the “I like it” heart whilst 1-2 could be “I don’t like it”. A five year old could have programmed that in about 5 minutes and it would have satisfied everybody.

I have not gone into the PC software but let’s just say that lots of people are also not at all impressed with this so called upgrade. I like many others may now choose to “downgrade” my firmware (and therefore PC software) to a package that has the same features I bought when I chose the Zune in the first place.

As I’m a UK Zune owner this is less problematic as I can’t use the marketplace anyway but for others this is a real issue. Let’s just see whether Microsoft listens to the huge amount of complaints and alters this latest upgrade to give us back the features we need and purchased.