Microsoft Zune: A Worthy iPod Rival

By Lance Ulanoff  |  Posted 2006-11-08 Print this article Print

Could this be the iPod competitor we've been waiting for?

The Microsoft Zune ($249.99 list) is a shot across iPods bow. I got a first-hand look at the Toshiba-built, Microsoft-designed digital music player and the associated software and supporting Web site and all I can say is "Wow."

For years, the Apple iPod has taken Microsoft to school. Microsofts responses, up until now, have been tepid, at best. Remember the first portable media players and that gosh-awful feeling that way too much had been crammed into the devices (the first Creative Zen being a prime example)? Forget that. In fact, forget everything you know about how Microsoft builds consumer electronics products—the Xbox notwithstanding.

The Zune is clear proof that Microsoft has learned something from Apple and virtually every other music player manufacturer thats come before it. The 5.6-ounce device feels good in your hand. At first, Microsoft will just offer a 30GB model. Nonetheless, its a bit heavier than the 80GB iPod with video. At 0.6 inches, its also thicker—the remaining dimensions are 2.4 inches wide by 4.4 inches long.

Offered in three colors—white, black, and brown—the Zune is not nearly as shiny as an iPod. In fact, the plastic casing has a subtle texture. My unit initially looked all brown, but then I noticed green piping along the edges. Oddly, it seemed to disappear when I turned the player this way and that. Microsoft execs explained that I was seeing the real color of the outer plastic covering—its green. The translucent plastic covers the device, which is painted brown. This is a nice feature and means you cannot scratch the paint—though you could conceivably scratch the plastic. Microsoft told me they expect the fine texture to get sort of burnished from people holding the Zune, which could personalize these players. Well see.

Read the full story on Microsoft Zune
Lance Ulanoff is Editor in Chief and VP of Content for PC Magazine Network, and brings with him over 20 years journalism experience, the last 16 of which he has spent in the computer technology publishing industry.

He began his career as a weekly newspaper reporter before joining a national trade publication, traveling the country covering product distribution and data processing issues. In 1991 he joined PC Magazine where he spent five years writing and managing feature stories and reviews, covering a wide range of topics, including books and diverse technologies such as graphics hardware and software, office applications, operating systems and, tech news. He left as a senior associate editor in 1996 to enter the online arena as online editor at HomePC magazine, a popular consumer computing publication. While there, Ulanoff launched, and and wrote about Web sites and Web-site building.

In 1998 he joined Windows Magazine as the senior editor for online, spearheading the popular magazine's Web site, which drew some 6 million page views per month. He also wrote numerous product reviews and features covering all aspects of the computing world. During his tenure, won the Computer Press Association's prestigious runner-up prize for Best Overall Website.

In August 1999, Ulanoff briefly left publishing to join as producer for the Computing and Consumer Electronics channels and then was promoted to the site's senior director for content. He returned to PC Magazine in November 2000 and relaunched in July 2001. The new was named runner-up for Best Web Sites at the American Business Media's Annual Neal Awards in March 2002 and won a Best Web Site Award from the ASBPE in 2004. Under his direction, regularly generated more than 25 million page views a month and reached nearly 5 million monthly unique visitors in 2005.

For the last year and a half, Ulanoff has served as Editor, Reviews, PC Magazine. In that role he has overseen all product and review coverage for PC Magazine and, as well as managed PC Labs. He also writes a popular weekly technology column for and his column also appears in PC Magazine.

Recognized as an expert in the technology arena, Lance makes frequent appearances on local, national and international news programs including New York's Eyewitness News, NewsChannel 4, CNN, CNN HN, CNBC, MSNBC, Good Morning America Weekend Edition, and BBC, as well as being a regular guest on FoxNews' Studio B with Shepard Smith. He has also offered commentary on National Public Radio and been interviewed by radio stations around the country. Lance has been an invited guest speaker at numerous technology conferences including Digital Life, RoboBusiness, RoboNexus, Business Foresight and Digital Media Wire's Games and Mobile Forum.

Lance also serves as co-host of PC Magazine's weekly podcast, PCMag Radio.


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