New models of Microsoft's Zune media player prove that Microsoft is still Microsoft: It's one of the best companies in the world at doing the difficult job of learning from its mistakes.
The new Zunes are 4-Gbyte and 8-Gbyte Zune Nanos and an 80-Gbyte Zune Classic. They aren't called the Nano and Classic, of course -- that's what Apple calls the comparable models of the iPod. And the Zune Nano and Classic aren't even comparable to the iPod Nano and Classic. They're really very good takes on last year's Nano and Classic.
While that still leaves Microsoft playing catch up to Apple, the new Zunes do what they had to do, which is fix a lot of what was wrong with the original 30-Gbyte Zune. Where the original Zune was a plastic brick, the new Zunes are slim, sleek, sexy-to-the-touch objects. Where the original Zune had a cheap five-way rocker-switch control, the new Zunes have a touchpad that lets you scroll and set volume by sliding your finger across it, the way the iPod has taught us a player should work. Where the original Zune was wireless, but wouldn't sync wirelessly with your PC, the new Zunes do, and the setup is a breeze. Where the original Zune software didn't support RSS feeds and podcasts, the new Zunes do -- and they even call them "podcasts" in the onscreen menu, which I find very ... interesting. (Are Apple's lawyers taking the year off?)
In a year, Microsoft has learned a lot. How much? This much: last year if somebody had given me a Zune as a holiday present it would have probably wound up in a drawer. This year if somebody gives me a Zune I'd probably use it. That's a big improvement. But Microsoft still has to make an even bigger improvement if it's going to do more than just expend ego in the media player market -- next year it has to make me want to buy a Zune.
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Mozilla Fixes Memory And CPU Problems In Firefox 3 Beta 1
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