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Multimedia melee

The battle of Zune vs. iPod doesn’t seem like a battle at all.

The Zune – Microsoft’s answer to the iPod – was released Nov. 14. The players have many of the same features: Both hold similar amounts of media, and both play music, video and pictures. However, each has certain features that the other doesn’t.

“As it turns out, the player is excellent. It can’t touch the iPod’s looks or coolness, but it’s certainly more practical,” electronics columnist David Pogue wrote in the New York Times. “It’s coated in slightly rubberized plastic, available in white, black or brown – yes, brown. It won’t turn heads, but it won’t get fingerprinty and scratched, either. It sounds just as good as the iPod.”

The screen of the Zune player is half an inch larger than the iPod’s, and it has a landscape mode for viewing video. The Zune can also import media from both iTunes and Windows Media Player. It even includes an FM radio tuner.

The main feature is the wireless network, where Zunes can share media with other Zunes. When a song is shared, the listener has three days or three plays, after which a text tag shows up specifying that the song is no longer available.

“I have people come in saying, ‘What’s the difference between an iPod and an MP3 player?’ They don’t even realize an iPod is a certain type of MP3 player, (and) you can get the same kind of thing without going through Apple,” Circuit City employee Vinnie Leonard said. Even with all of its extra features, the Zune is not doing well in sales – the iPod is still the reigning MP3 player. On, the 30 gigabyte iPod Video Black (5.5 Generation) is No. 1 in electronics sales, while the Zune 30 gigabyte Digital Media Player (Black) is No. 64.

An Amazon product specialist said the reason the Zune is not doing well is because it is brand new and will take a while to gain people’s acceptance. iPods have been around for the past five years, so they have a bit of a head start.

Adding to its acceptance woes, the Zune doesn’t have iPod extras such as games, an alarm clock or a calendar. The iPod is lighter at 4.8 ounces while the Zune weighs in at 5.6. And you can’t use the Zune as an external hard drive as you can with the iPod – a feature that comes in handy when you have to move large computer files.

“Over 80 percent of 2007 cars will have an iPod connector option – zero for Zune,” Pogue wrote. “And there’s only one Zune model; there’s no equivalent of the iPod Nano or Shuffle.”