We all take it for granted that, more or less, there's a separation between hardware and software. I mean, we can take any computer and "repave" it with a fresh install of Windows, and frequently even a newer version. Servers, desktops, laptops, even the elusive tablet. What I haven't seen lately is the ability to upgrade a device. Oh sure, sometimes you can search out a ROM image and re-flash your Windows Mobile device. But that seems somewhat like cheating.
Yesterday, I installed the new Zune software for the desktop. I'm just blown away. It's so slick a UI that it just melts into the background. So simple. Pick an artist. There are the albums (yes, I grew up on vinyl so they're albums, dammit). Size the window and the album covers gracefully shuffle around. Nice touch that you can view them sorted by year released! Alphabetically makes no sense especially when you have 22 Rush albums. And the dedicated Podcast capability is great, though I loathe that name. Why do we have to use a name derived from just one line of music players. I much prefer the term "Mediacast" but hey, at least they're easy to set up.
So, going back to my opening thought, it's just fantastic that not only do I get a new desktop music player in Zune, but also by upgrading my Zune device it's like I have a whole new player. As I was reading about the new features, I was thinking "Certainly they're not going to provide wireless sync functionality to the old Zunes" but I was so wrong. And right off the main menu there's Podcasts. I had tried some third party "Zunecast" software that tried to shove MP3s under albums and artists but that was to hard to manage.
All in all, a very awe-inspiring update. And not a moment too soon. :)