This is the first in what will be a series of posts about the Microsoft Zune device. I’ve been interested in this for some time–having suggested the idea of a wireless media player in 2005.
First things first: Let’s differentiate between software, firmware, and hardware:
- The Zune Software is the program you must install in Windows to use the Zune. The Zune software resembles Windows Media Player 11. It allows you to browse the Zune Marketplace.
- The Zune Firmware is the software running on the Zune device. This is the stuff that makes things happen when you turn it on, move through menus, share songs over wireless, etc.
- The Zune Hardware is the device. This includes the action of the buttons going up and down, the lock switch working, the screen showing bright and the battery lasting for a certain amount of time.
When you purchase the Zune for $250 or less the product includes these three things. You must count each of these to work individually to get a good customer experience.
So far I have not had a good customer experience, but I’ve looked past that because I see it as a device to debug and am enjoying that side of it. If I were a normal consumer I would have returned the device and not gotten another one. It is problematic and unless you don’t mind unraveling knots I would suggest you wait on buying a Zune for at least a few months until more updates are given out by Microsoft.
My biggest problem had to do with getting my Zune firmware updated. The Zune comes with Firmware version 1.0 installed on the device. This is burnt into a ROM, and the device can be reset to this version if something goes real bad. You are required to update to a more recent version of the firmware in order to sync new media to your device. This means that unless you want to use the included media forever you must perform the update.
Unfortunately, my device would not successfully update from the firware. After multiple tries, restarts, firmware restorations, etc. I finally had to use Anne’s computer (which has a very clean Windows XP SP2 install) to perform the 1.0 to 1.2 firmware update.
Here is a brief description of the problem I faced trying to update the firmware on my Zune:
After installing the Zune software I was told that my Zune firmware that needed to be updated to 1.2. I clicked next once it found the device and watched as it updated the firmware. Unfortunately, after getting to “updating the device” I would hear the Windows XP sound of a USB device disconnecting. Then two things happened:
1. The Zune software would sit there supposedly still updating until finally saying that it had failed and that I should try again later.
2. The Zune itself would show the “connect device to PC” or “connect zune to pc” screen with clipart of a computer and a Zune. It would continuously restart itself alternating between the Zune logo and this screen. This occured despite the fact that the zune was connected to the computer via the USB cable.
I tried to solve this problem by disconnecting and reconnecting the Zune, closing and restarting the Zune software and also restarting the computer. The Zune would no longer be recognized by my PC and I could no longer view the pre-loaded content or any of the functional menus.
The firmware restoration only got me back to the point of the computer seeing the device again, but when it came to try and update the firmware the process above would repeat.
If you run into the above scenerio, you are not alone–just stop trying to use your computer. Use someone else’s. :