You all know who I work for, so feel free to ignore me.
Okay, so I bought a Creative Zen Micro a while ago to test out the new Yahoo Music service while it was in internal beta, but I ended up hating the Zen so much I wanted to smash it with a hammer. But then I forgot to bring it back in time and I couldn't find a sucker to sell it to so it's just been sitting in my desk drawer instead. I finally decided that having it sit there was dumb. So I pulled it out yesterday, booted up an extra Windows PC I have for testing and installed the Yahoo Music Engine now that it's public and loaded the player up. I have to say, it's very, very cool.
I mean, it's not perfect or anything, just very good. I do think the player loads up way too slowly (do I *need* all those plug ins?), the color scheme leaves a lot to be desired (I guess there'll be skins), and the default "mini" view is far from it. I would bitch about how bloated it is in terms of memory use, but it's no more of a memory hog than iTunes, so I won't get nuts about it. But that's about it. The important stuff is that the player didn't give me any problems at all and worked and synced just like it should.
The YME lets you listen to streaming LaunchCast music and share playlists with your friends and all that, but obviously the big thing about the YME is the Yahoo! Unlimited service. After you sign up and sign in, you can download "unlimited" amounts of music to sync with your compatible music player. It sounds good in theory, but I was really surprised at how nice it all worked in real life. Let me tell you how I used the service for the first time, because it was surprisingly easy. First, I started at the Y! Unlimited home page and did a search for an artist that I thought I'd like, found their page which listed their albums, then started downloading the ones I wanted by clicking on the "add to my music" button next to the song or album name. That's all there is to it - click, click, click.
I especially like the "Explore Similar Artists" links on the top of each song, album or artist page. I just basically surfed from page to page snagging music that I liked along the way. First I'd find someone I liked then I'd see a list of similar artist links which I could follow which let me find other music I liked. The entire time, I was just clicking the "add" button when I wanted something and it would pop the music into the download queue running in the background. Really slick and easy.
Since I was trying to fill up my Zen with as much good music as quickly as possible, I looked for compilations mostly - so I got lots of "best of" albums and anthologies - from the Rolling Stones to the Talking Heads to the Beastie Boys and and Bob Marley. Tons of good stuff - before long I had a massive list of music to listen to. It probably helps that I'm *in* Yahoo's offices, so I was able to snag 5GB worth of music (893 songs) in about an hour, but that may just be how fast it is.
The Zen actually only has 4,700MB of usable space so I had to create a Playlist with a subset of my music in order to sync (if I had less, it would sync automagically), but surprisingly it worked just like it should. I was able to copy everything from my My Music list into a new playlist, and then go through and remove the albums I didn't feel like listening to at that moment until I got to the right size. Simple and easy. The YME detected the plugged in player with no problems and I was able to see the music on the device, play, move and delete it without problems (very surprising). I don't think the PC I'm using has USB 2, so it took FOREVER to sync, so I just left it over night. When I came in today however, my player is filled to the brim with new music.
Say what you will about me not owning this music, but I'll tell you right now it sure *feels* like I own it. It's sitting on my portable music player and I'm listening quite happily to a random mix of tons of both new music and stuff I haven't heard in a long time. It's very cool. Now, if only I was able to listen to my music on my iPod, instead of some retarded user-hostile frustrating piece of junk created by sadistic incompetent bozos I'd be ecstatic instead of just really happy. That's really going to be a real challenge for Yahoo, actually. Until some of the Apple competitors can make a decent player, it's going to be an uphill battle to get users, I'm sure. But honestly, the Y! Unlimited service might be worth the pain anyways.