Wednesday, August 09, 2006

An Open Letter to the Windows Media Team

Please fix Windows Media Player 11 before its final release. I've gone from using Windows Media Player exclusively to using iTunes about 60% of the time. And I really dislike iTunes. I'm a Windows Media fan. I love the tiny sizes I can get with WMA. I have a Media Center PC, a Samsung Q1 UMPC and a Windows Smartphone. I listen to music, play videos, stream and move content between the three. But WMP 11 is such a minor improvement over 10 for my needs that I wonder why you bothered.

Here are my biggest gripes:

1) No podcatcher. I have a 45 minute commute each way. Podcasts are perfect for me. I download them to the Q1 and listen in the car. It can't be that hard to add podcatching to WMP 11. Why is MS ceding an entire category to Apple? AGAIN? Alternatively, why aren't there 3rd parties that better integrate with WMP11? Why do I have to go out of Windows Media to setup Juice or something similar? Isn't MS about developers, developers, developers?

2) WMP11 STARTS OVER when you put the machine in standby. This is absurd. You get halfway through a movie or a podcast, get to your destination, put the machine in standby and when you get back, it starts over. Sure you get a warning when you put the machine in standby, but what good is that? Restart the movie or not have any battery to play it with? hmm... decisions, decisions. I know it can be done, iTunes does this just fine.

3) Simple <> Easy - Yes the new interface is simple, but it's not easy to use. Everything is hidden. When I first used dbase a hundred years ago you got a blank screen and cursor. It was as simple as you could get. It wasn't easy. You'll notice nobody uses dbase any more.

4) Beta Shmeta - I'm writing this post because there is no simple way to give feedback on the beta. No "push this button if you have a suggestion to make WMP better". Beta = Unfinished, feedback wanted. If you don't have a simple mechanism for feedback, don't bother calling it beta. Just release it and take your lumps for the bugs. These psuedo beta's are a cowards way out, and I mean that for everyone who does it, MS, Google, etc.

5) Release more! - Again, I really don't like iTunes. The interface is inconsistent and cluttered. For example, right click does everything with a podcast except unsubscribe. You have to find the button at the bottom right to unsubscribe. Would it really be that hard to put unsubscribe on the right click menu? To their credit, however, they update a lot. They do a poor job of it. Every update is essentially a reinstall. You shouldn't have to do that. But they update a lot. We should be seeing more releases of WMP 11 for testing. Show me some progress and I'll shut up and go back to WMP.

Guys, Apple is killing MS in the Music/Podcast/Video cast space. They are too far ahead. You will not be able to create a big monster release that will solve the problem. Give us more updates, more frequently. Make the product evolve. We don't want a big bang every 5 years, we want steady growth. If you're losing ground in a race, counting on a burst of speed at the end is foolish. You have to steadily pick up the pace. Please fix these items. I miss using WMP and I don't want to have to find an alternative.

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