Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

An Open Letter to the Zune team about Zune 2

imageDear Zune team:

  • J. Allard, Corporate VP Zune
  • Chris Stephenson, GM Global Marketing Zune
  • Kyle Hopkins, Music Producer, Zune Marketplace
  • Richard Winn, Director of Artist Development & Music Marketing
  • Katy Asher, Senior Public Relations Manager
  • Cesar Menendez, Online Community Manager
  • Chad Gibson, Group Manager Zune Community
  • Clinton Fowler, Program Manager Zune Community
  • Alison Pember, Marketing Entertainment Manager

You’re kidding, right?

I deliberately got a Zune 30GB in anticipation of the "Zune 2" upgrade. I figured we’d get some incremental updates, UI tweaks, improved stability and usability on both the desktop software and on the hardware itself. I would have been okay with that.

But no, you didn’t do that. You came out with a whole new interface for the desktop software (at least you let us change the theme/skin, I’m really not down with all that pink), and you removed some VERY important features! What were you thinking?

Where did the star-rating go? And if you tell me it’s now "simpler" and "more friendly" because it’s a 3-step scale now instead of 6 (like before), I’m going to throttle someone. I liked the "un-rated" and 1 to 5-star that you had before; have you seen other MP3 players do the same? How about other web sites when ranking a product or service? How do they do it? Yup, with stars — five of ’em. Why are you doing it differently than everyone else?

What did you do with our auto-playlists?! In most cases I don’t want to make a static playlist, I want a playlist that stays fresh and new with every new song that I add; I want a playlist that will be based around a theme and will scour my library for songs that meet my criteria (with a keyword in the title, and/or from a certain genre, and/or with a minimum star-rating, etc.).

The way I rip my music (yes, it’s MY music in case the RIAA is listening in) is that I rip everything on the CD (yes, I still buy CDs from the artists that I support). There are some songs that I like, and some that I don’t — but I keep those that I don’t in the library because someday my tastes may change. How do I filter these out? Auto-playlists! I make an auto-playlist and one of the filters I apply is to EXCLUDE songs that have a star-rating of 1 or 2 (the songs that I don’t like at the moment). That way I only play songs I like, but I don’t have to delete songs that I don’t. Further, I flag all songs with explicit lyrics or "questionable material" with 1-star, so I can have a playlist that has no family-unfriendly "stuff" in it. But you guys just killed my auto-playlists, so now I have to manually create them, and manually maintain them when I add new music, or when I discover that a song already in the playlist shouldn’t be there (because it’s been "star-downgraded").

So, this upgrade added some "coolness" and some "features" but it took away some features, too. Tell you what, I’ll promise not to use the new "features" if you either bring back the "old features" or compensate me for my loss. How about a straight-across swap for a 30GB iPod? They still have the features that I use. Contact me and let’s arrange for the swap.

Of course, I went with Zune for a reason, and I’d really like to avoid getting an iPod, but if you’re not willing to swap, these are the non-negotiable features to bring back with the next update (to be no longer than 4 weeks from now):

  • bring back the 5-star rating system (none of this un-rated, heart, broken-heart crap)
  • bring back auto-playlists, former self-proclaimed Zune Advocate


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3 Responses

  1. opuntia says:


    I agree with you 100%. I was holding out between the 80gb Zune or ipod until the new zunes were announced. However, once I found out about the new rating system and the removal of the auto-playlists, I’m going with the ipod.

    I’m a big user of playing my over 10,000 mp3’s thru MS’s Media Center Edition. MCE and Windows Media Player both have auto-playlists and the 5-star rating system and I’ve invested lots of time over the years rating most of my music. I WON’T let the new Zune software redo all my work.

    What’s funny is that the ipod w/ itunes is more integrated with MCE than the MS’s own Zune.

  2. Joe says:


    I agree with you whole heartedly! I also use my computer (running Vista Ultimate) and stream my content to my XBOX360 (they cut off support for my original XBOX, so there goes streaming music to that room :: sigh :: ), and like for my ratings to carry through the entire experience.

    It is interesting that iPod/iTunes has the 5-“circle” rating, and integrates very well with MCE and XBOX360…

    I think the new Zune firmware is pretty killer (excluding the “broken heart” rating system), and the Zune software is a lot faster/more stable (but harder to navigate within and less intuitive).

    So, my open letter to the Zune 2 team remains open, but I’m glad to know that I’m not alone!

    Thanks for the comments, Opuntia!

  3. Joe says:

    Anyone reading this that wants to try and make a difference, please head on over to the > social > forums (specifically, here: ) and post your thoughts, requests, demands, etc. to the developers.

    I’ve reposted this article there, with trackback link, of course.

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