iTunes, iPod, Winamp, Zune... let's call the whole thing off
January 11, 2008 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Zune, iTunes, and Winamp: is an (apparent) lack of support a deal-breaker?

I'm a PC and Winamp user trying to decide between the 80gb iPod and the 80gb Zune. I can't figure out from the internet whether there is at least limited flexibility (3rd party software, hacks) that would allow me to continue using Winamp with a Zune or not, as opposed to the iPod winamp plugin that I hear about. Plus, I may switch back to iTunes one day if I buy a Mac in the future, and I'm having trouble finding out from Google if a Zune would work with iTunes either.

So does this mean no Zune for me? The reviews made it sound like such a refreshing change from the iPod, but I'm not sure if I can handle all these possible compatibility issues. If anyone has experiences to share I'd be grateful...
posted by Muffpub to Technology (10 answers total)
The Zune is great (I've had mine since launch), but to my knowledge only works with the zune software. The ipod has a little more flexibility as you mentioned above.

The Zune software is far from perfect (depends a lot on where you get your music) but it does everything I need it to (organize music, move it to zune). One other really great perk is the subscription option- 15 a month for all the music you can download. It doesn't cover mp3 only releases (no DRM, but these are few) but otherwise its fantastic. I have pretty oddball taste and I find 90% or so of what I'm after there.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:43 AM on January 11, 2008

I don't know the answer, but you may want to check out the anything but ipod forums.
posted by o0dano0o at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2008

I don't own a Zune, but you can share media to it out of WMP11 which has undergone vast improvements since earlier versions. I haven't looked at the Zune software, but I haven't heard great things about it either.

I do use Winamp with the now default mlipod, and it works sufficiently well on my PCs.
posted by prostyle at 9:52 AM on January 11, 2008

iTunes only works with iPods and some ancient pre-iPod players.

The Zune software got a major upgrade/rewrite for the new players, so you have to be careful which version the reviews are talking about. You can use the new software with the old players too. Ars review of new ones and software.
posted by smackfu at 10:11 AM on January 11, 2008

iTunes only works with iPods and some ancient pre-iPod players.

This is only partially true. I use iTunes to rip my CDs to MP3 which play just fine on my Zune. And my Zune software automatically updates to include those iTunes ripped MP3s in it's library.

I like iTunes software better and use it to manage my music collection. I only fire up the Zune software to sync with the player.
posted by dzot at 10:23 AM on January 11, 2008

dzot has my current pattern down exactly: Zune software is just the "mover" of the music, while I vastly prefer iTunes to do the actual management of my library.

With that said, while I do like my Zune, the iPod is still the best media player going. Being the most popular gives it the most flexibility, since there's more incentive to hack it.
posted by griffey at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2008

The Zune software used to be better, but then they took away some features, making it - like someone else said - simply a music-mover. But there's been a lot of protest about this from Zune users, and I would not be surprised if the next big update features the return of these features (5-star rating system and auto/smart-playlists being big ones). The possibility of an update is what's kept me from trading my Zune in for an iPod. I regularly check the support forums at to see if there's any hint, and I read Zune Insider as well.

The device is great, though. But if you're looking for flexibility, and you want it *right now*... Zune's not best bet.
posted by katillathehun at 12:07 PM on January 11, 2008

Best answer: Like dzot and griffey, I only use the Zune software to transfer music and podcasts. My desktop media player is WinAmp. It's no trouble at all to keep two libraries, especially since WinAmp and the Zune software both automatically find new tracks I've added to my music folder.

This wasn't an issue at all for me, since I've kept my desktop player and my device separate for all of my portable players (Creative Zen Xtra, Rio Karma, Zune 80). I wouldn't let this come between you and the Zune. It's an excellent player and I have no complaints. Even if you do get an iPod, you shouldn't let your portable player determine your desktop player; I know plenty of people with iPods who despise iTunes and use it only for transferring music to their iPod.

The real compatibility issue you need to worry about only comes into play if you switch to a Mac. There is no official Zune software for Macs, although a quick Google search suggests there may be some hope.
posted by punishinglemur at 3:37 PM on January 11, 2008

While I love my iPod(s) and I certainly recommend them, I want to point out that 3rd party syncing software such as WinAmp is only supports the iPod in the sense that some hacker reverse engineered the iPod data format. This format is subject to change and at some point may be too hard to reverse. Apple doesn't really want to support 3rd party syncing, as far as I can tell. But it sounds like the Zune isn't much better in this regard. It might be worth checking out one of the other manufacturers players if universal support is important to you.
posted by chairface at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I ended up deciding on a Zune. And I like it!
posted by Muffpub at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2008

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