Zune 4.0 + Audiobooks = SUX

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I hate writing disclaimers, but I need to make sure that you understand that these are my personal experiences and my personal thoughts. My employer is not responsible for my posts. Also for the record, I am active in the Microsoft community, and this isn’t meant to be an anti-Microsoft post. This is a renewal of my previous call to action for them.

Back in February, I had mentioned that there was this horrible user experience when it came to using audiobooks with the Zune. Today, Zune 4.0 came out, and we still have 0 support within the Zune desktop client for audiobooks.

As an ordinary user, I cringe at the current user experience. If I want to stay honest and delete expired audiobooks from my Zune, I need to follow the non-intuitive process that’s outlined in this post. Of course, there’s also Zune Explorer Enabler, that makes the Zune visible like a hard drive in Windows Explorer. That would be 100x simpler and easier to describe to a non-technical user, like my mom.

In the Zune 3.0 release, the device was able to support OverDrive audiobooks. My local libraries have digital collections, and thanks to my library card, it doesn’t cost me anything (other than time and bandwidth) to download audiobooks. I love that I can go to their sites, check out books, transfer them to my Zune, and go. But I don’t like that the Zune lets you transfer audiobooks to it, even has its own section for audiobooks on the device menu, but doesn’t have a way to manage that section from the desktop client. Even if you could delete the audiobook parts from the device itself, it’d pretty much be guaranteed to be better than the current process. If you can see videos, pictures, and songs in the Zune desktop software, I would think that you could see the audiobooks just as easily. But there I go thinking logically… it’s the developer in me.

Add to it that I’m a big fan of docking windows in Windows 7, and the Zune software still does not dock. That makes me pretty cranky.

Now there are some things that I do like. For example, now I can see how many credits I have left of my 10 credits from my Zune pass. When I hover over the credits, I see when they expire. That’s nice.

I can “pin” music to make it easier to find them. But for those of you who know me, “pinning” things can get chaotic and disastrous. It reminds me of pinning applications to the taskbar in Windows.

Now there’s this feature called “Smart DJ”. I’m not too sure what it does – other than analyzing your song collection and possibly playing songs I might like based on the 5 artists that I selected. I really can’t talk about this feature for a few days. Apparently it’s going to take 80.5 hours to install. Please tell me this is another Windows estimation “feature” and isn’t for real.

Oh wait… in the process of writing this post, the time went up to 152 hours and down as low as 61 hours. I’m thinking it might be more like this.

At least the Zune software is still operational while Smart DJ is installing.

And this mini player is cute, but it isn’t the same as what I want to do when I want to dock the window in Windows 7.

Overall, I see a lot of “shiny” features, a lot of “fun”, and some “cute”. But what I’m not seeing is practical functional improvements. The desktop software can somewhat manage the device, but it’s sad that it doesn’t have full capabilities to manage the device. Overall, I’m unimpressed by today’s update. Now maybe the functionality is there for the Zune HD – I wouldn’t know as I’m waiting to see reviews and handle one physically before purchasing one. But for us regular Zune users, I’m not seeing anything in this patch that makes it worthwhile (unless you like “shiny” and “pretty” effects, in which case check it out).

So once again, the Zune software is the star of my Sarah on User eXperience (SUX) series. Here’s hoping that one day it may be able to fully manage the device. And when the day comes where it supports audiobooks, I’ll hopefully be able to sing its praises. For now, I’ll continue to use the convoluted process of deleting parts through OverDrive Media Console and stay honest with my audiobooks on the Zune. But all that work just to stay honest… yeesh!

(And as I post this, I’m down to 36 hours on my SmartDJ install. Mind you, I wrote this post over an hour or so.)


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