Q: I received the Sony Walkman X-Series last month as a birthday gift and absolutely love it. I did, however, see you on CNET Live with Donald Bell featuring the Microsoft Zune HD, which I was very impressed with. I also saw the price on Amazon, which I was also very impressed with. My question is does the new Zune work with Windows Media Player 11? Someone told me it doesn't and that all your downloads are through Zune Pass, which I believe is a music store like iTunes.--Ben, via e-mail
A: The Zune operates in a closed environment, much like the iPod. So yes, it is only meant to be used with the Zune Software, and it will not operate correctly with WMP11 (though I have heard rumors of people getting previous Zunes to work outside of the "environment"). The one major difference between the Zune and the iPod, however, is the Zune Pass, which is a subscription music service that lets you download and transfer all the music you want for $14.99 per month. (This plan also includes 10 songs per month in MP3 format, which you get to download and own outright.) You may also choose to pay per song through the Zune Marketplace, which operates like iTunes.
So with the Zune, you have three levels of music management and ownership to consider. At a minimum, you must use the Zune Software to transfer any media to the device, though this can be limited to content you already own. Next, there's the Zune Marketplace, which lives inside the Software and provides content (music and video) for purchase, as well as access to things like podcasts, which are generally free. For the most comprehensive experience, you might choose the Zune Pass, which provides fairly unlimited access for a monthly fee.
Q: My daughters bought me an iPod for my 50th birthday and formatted it and my favorite CDs with their Mac computer. I have tried to add new music from my PC but it wont recognize the player, saying it was formatted with a Mac. How can I save the music on the iPod and reformat it to work with my PC?--TJ, via e-mail
A: This is a common problem that boils down to the fact that PCs have no built-in means to read Mac-formatted drives. There are a couple software solutions out there, but the best one seems to be a program from MediaFour called X Play.
You can get a free trial download using the link, which may be enough for you to copy all the files to your PC. Then, after all your media is backed up, you reformat the iPod to PC, sync all the content back, and just use iTunes on your PC from there on out.
MP3 Mailbox Monday is a recurring feature in which I answer a selection of questions about MP3 players and accessories, such as headphones, speakers, and music services and software. Check back often to see if the advice presented here might be of some use to you, or send your questions directly to me. (Note: We never include last names, but if you prefer to remain completely anonymous, please state as much in your e-mail.)