The new Zune desktop software for music organization and playback is incredibly slick. The software has come so far since its initial Windows Media Player roots that it could conceivably be used by someone who did not even own a Zune device. My only real remaining gripe is that it still uses the largely useless “heart or no heart” rating system instead of a more conventional five star system.
The new “Smart DJ” system seems relatively…smart, picking artists that sound alike to make a custom radio station. It will only truly function like Pandora for music discovery if you have a Zune Pass, but it doesn’t have any ads and it can be set to only play music from your own library. I’ve been impressed with its selections so far, although it sometimes seems to rely too heavily on the artist you used to create the station.
There are lots of little touches that really just need to be seen to be appreciated. There’s a new mini-player mode which is excellently done; it can minimize to the taskbar, then pop up on mouseover, or remain separate and always on top. There’s also a refined “Now Playing” screen that displays album art in the background. Visually – and, arguably, functionally – it’s head and shoulders above iTunes.
I just wish those apps (a calculator and a weather app!) in the Zune Marketplace could be used on my brown Zune 30.