Is Being “Smart (DJ)” Better Than Being “Genius”?

software_smartdj_quickplayAs most people probably know, Apple’s iTunes media player includes a feature known as “Genius,” which attempts to look at your collection and create playlists of related music for you. However, they may not realize that the new version of the Zune desktop software includes a similar (on the surface, at least) feature known as “Smart DJ.”

Being completely open, here, I can’t stand using iTunes for many reasons, so I’ve only very gently used the Genius feature. Therefore, I’m not going spend too much time in this post comparing the two services; I’m just going to outline the properties of the new Smart DJ feature, and hope that some of our readers will fill in the gaps as to whether or not they are available in the iTunes Genius mode. From what I’ve heard from people that have used both, though, the Smart DJ feature seems to be much more intelligent than Genius.

Two Things the ZuneHD Should Have

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the new ZuneHD that Microsoft is planning to release. Overall, I am impressed by the announced improvements to my favorite little portable media player. However, there are two features I think are absolutely necessary in order for the Zune to have a chance of taking a bigger bite out of the iPod market.

Zune Slashes Prices on Accessories

Throughout the month of July, the Zune Originals store, an offshoot of Zune.net, is offering many of its Zune accessories at 50% off, and quite a few more at smaller discounts. If you own a Zune, there is no better time to pick up those accessories you’ve been wanting.

Even if you don’t own a Zune, you may want to take this opportunity to pick up a set of the Zune headphones, which are absolutely worth every penny of the $19.99 they’re currently selling for on the Web site. Of course, the price of the 120 gig Zune has been dropped (permanently, I believe) to $249, which is what I paid for my 80 gig Zune a year and a half ago, so you may want to pick one of those up, too.

When looking for these accessories, you will probably want to visit the Zune Originals store, not the main Zune Web site, as the main Zune Web site still has all of the accessories listed at full price. However, even if you do visit the main Zune Web site, clicking the “Buy Now” button will open the Zune Store in a new window/tab with the item in your cart at the correct price.

Microsoft Announces HD Zune

Microsoft announced today that the new incarnation of the Zune will feature a touch screen, HD radio and HD video out (720p), among other things. The Zune HD will also feature a Web browser with a QWERTY keyboard. Strangely absent from the list of new features is bluetooth support.

At this time, that’s about all that’s been officially released about the Zune HD, but I’ll be interested to see how this shapes up. I honestly don’t understand why bluetooth (A2DP) is not being added to the new Zune, as that’s one of the big ticket items still missing from the iPhone and iPod Touch. If Microsoft were to introduce more high-quality games and add support for bluetooth stereo headsets and bluetooth file transfer, the Zune HD could finally begin to rival the iPod.

I have to admit, though, that the HD radio tuner built in is kind of cool. I still think that Microsoft needs to develop its own app store for the Zune, though.

The iPhone Vs. The Zune

Having recently acquired an iPhone, I thought this might be a good opportunity to attempt to compare the iPhone with the Microsoft Zune and see how the two stack up against each other. Obviously, the iPhone is going to have some capabilities that simply cannot be matched by the Zune, but I think you might be surprised to see how they stack up when evaluated strictly as portable media players (PMP).

I do love my Zune, which will show through in this article a good bit. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am not a Microsoft fanboy, nor am I an Apple fanboy. I do have a certain bias against the iPod (mainly because of the iTunes software), but I have tried to write this article as objectively as humanly possible. I am definitely open to comments about any mistakes, incorrect assumptions, etc. I make in the article. I am not, however, looking for fanboy comments from either side spouting subjective opinions about whether Apple is better than MS or the other way around.

In my personal life, I am almost exclusively a Linux user, which makes it difficult to truly enjoy either device. Keep that in mind as you read my opinions on the matter at hand.

Zune Suffers Big PR Hit

Apparently, as a result of the leap year coming to an end, every 30 gig Zune on the planet suffered a serious issue – they were basically bricked on Jan. 1, 2009. The problem has unofficially been dubbed “Z2K9”.

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