Interested in getting a sense of Zune, but don't want to shell out $249 for the device?
One option is downloading the Zune software. It's free from Microsoft's Zune Web site.
I gave it a whirl Tuesday afternoon. The download was slow--perhaps because of high day-one demand. It took 19 minutes from the time I noticed it was taking a while to download. Once it downloaded and installed, it required a restart.
Once up and running again, the Zune software walked me through creating a Zune nickname, linking it to a Windows Live account. The software offers the option of making Zune the default music player or choosing specific file types for which it is the default. I handed over the reins only for Zune Playlist files.
Also of note, Zune's software rips CDs to WMA format by default, but that can also be set to MP3.
Once done with making my choices, the software automatically built a library from my existing music files. It nicely handled the importing and sorting of the music, including the album art I already had. Many other albums showed up with the tag "searching for art," while others said "paste art here."
Microsoft still hasn't gotten 99 cents out of me, or 79 points, or whatever. But I did browse around the store, the Zune Marketplace as it is known. Overall, the software is quite reminiscent of Windows Media Player 11, which is not surprising since Zune's software is based on Microsoft's existing jukebox software.