I’ve mostly pursued Microsoft technologies in my career. Although I do make an effort to stay aware of the “other guys” too. I typically install a brand of Linux or Unix once or twice a year, and I dabble in some of the other languages like Java, Ruby, and now Android development. My point is, I’ve never been accused of it, but I don’t think of myself as a Microsoft fanboy. Put another way, my career direction has been one of conscious choices. I happen to agree with most of the philosophy behind the Microsoft technologies, so I continue to choose to work in these technologies. If I start disagreeing, I will move on to something else.
With that said, on the hardware side of things, I’ve been very impressed with a couple of things:
ZUNE: The first reaction people have to Zune is typically negative, as if it’s a lesser version of an iPod. For me, when I was looking to transition to an MP3 player (instead of lugging around my USB drive and power supply, pull of MP3’s) – I was turned off by the iPod and iTunes. The main thing is iTunes proprietary format. That really didn’t sit well with me. When I “buy” a song, I can only play it on an iPod or in iTunes. That sounds more like leasing, not buying. This is not-cool, in my book.
Zune and Zune Marketplace do all the things you might expect, you can browse and buy songs, subscribe to podcasts, download or rent movies, etc. However, there are two things that put the Zune WAY out in front of the iPod. 1) is that when you “buy” a song, it is a DRM-free MP3. It’s yours, for life, to install, copy, or listen to on any device you wish. That’s huge. and 2) there is this thing called the Zune Marketplace (like iTunes) and they have a product called ZunePass. For $14.95/month, I can download UNLIMITED songs and play them indefinitely (so long as I maintain the subscription) and then I also get TEN free song credits each month. Assuming most songs are $0.99, that basically means that the service costs $5/month, if you normally would buy 10 songs a month anyhow (consider an album is 10-14 songs).
I certainly understand this may not be for everyone, but for someone like me who is always, always listening to music, this is 100% ideal. I couldn’t come up with a better plan if I tried. For me, it’s just a flawless idea – and I enjoy these benefits every day! So, although it may be trendy to get an iWhatever of the moment, it seems that Apple maybe can get away with being more heavy-handed with it’s customers, because they have plenty of demand. But meanwhile, the Zune is absolutely comparable in every way, PLUS it has these two great features that (in my view, as a customer), knock Apple out of the running.
XBox360: I think I’ve had 4 XBox360’s so far. One got red-ring-of-death and as out of warrantee, the next got a RROD, was in warrantee, but I bought an Elite to replace it, then sold the other one when it came back from warrantee. It’s been another couple of years, and I got an E 74 hardware error on the Elite, it was covered under warrantee, but I took this opportunity to get one of the new slim consoles. So I think that means new achievements:
The new slim XBox 360 is pretty much the same device. It includes “touch” buttons where you just kind of wave your finger over them to activate. It’s way, way, way quieter. The DVD and the system fan are significantly quieter than before. It’s got a 250GB drive and it’s slightly faster.
With that said, I continue to be a fan of XBox and XBox Live – it’s a great gaming platform, ties in nicely with NetFlix, allows game demos, and even games on-demand (which are typically $19-29 and download to your hard drive). And before you start worrying, I found out empirically that your purchases are tied to your gamer tag. So, on the new XBox, I just go to the game and it prompts with something like “You’ve already purchased this game, would you like to download it again?”. So, no worries there.
Now that school is out for the next month, I’ve been catching up on some much needed gaming time with Bad Company 2!