Earlier this week, Zune product manager Cesar Menendez confirmed on his Zune Insider blog that Microsoft will introduce a new rating system for songs. Instead of the five star system that's been in place on iTunes, Zune, the Windows Media Player, and just about every other music software from the beginning of time, Zune is moving to a simple binary system. If you like a song, it gets a heart. If you don't, it gets a broken heart.
I understand that the Zune team has done some market research that purports to show that some users don't understand or make full use of the five-star system, but this attempt at differentiation feels arbitrary and in some cases harmful. The reason: a lot of sophisticated digital music fans--which, if I recall, were supposed to be the original target for Zune--use the star ratings in different ways.
In my particular case, my wife and I both store all of our music on the same computer. We each have each have our own iTunes library (which the Zune software automatically imports) to organize this music. Our tastes overlap to some degree, but occasionally a song will come up on my playlist that I hate, but that comes from my wife's library. I give that song two stars, meaning "delete from library, but not computer." If it's a song I know comes from my library, and I hate it, and I suspect she won't care whether I delete it or not, then I rate it one star and nuke it from the computer to save space.
Songs that get to live are rated between three and five stars. This is helpful when I'm compiling a playlist for a dinner party--I don't remember every song I've ripped, but I can run through genres and organize them by stars, and sometimes a four or five-star selection that I haven't heard in a long time will stick out.
No more. Worst of all, the conversion process will rate every song two stars or higher as "like," which in my case means I might be subjected to Beyonce, Journey, or worse.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
P.S.: Maybe they're not going after hardcore music fans, but some other hardcore demographic.