Wired: Zune’s Recommendations Make Apple’s “Genius” Look Average

Sep 12th, 2008 | By | Category: iPods & Portable Media Players

Apple’s iTunes 8 introduced a new feature, Genius, designed to help you find new music.

I was unimpressed with Genius – it’s not much more than a recommendation engine, designed to get you to buy more music. In other words, it’s a lot like the recommendation system Amazon has been offering online for a decade. 

Wired has taken a pre-release view at Microsoft’s new Zune software, though, and they are impressed with its new recommendation system, saying “what we saw made iTunes’ simple Genius feature look like a blast from digital music’s past”:

The new feature, called MixView (pictured above), displays a single album, artist or user in the center of the screen and surrounds it with related items in a graphical format (sort of reminiscent of MusicPlasma, although Microsoft says it developed MixView all on its own). You can start on an artist and instantly discover which bands influenced that artist and vice versa, by mousing over those surrounding elements in MixView. Double-clicking through to any song plays a 30-second sample, offers a chance to buy the track or, if you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, plays the track in its entirety.

The same view shows Zune users who play the artist in heavy rotation and the albums that are associated with an artist. Clicking on any of these elements brings it to the center of the screen and reconfigures the relationships with new elements.

Granted, I’m not referring to the accuracy of one system’s algorithms versus the other’s; there will be plenty of time to compare them on those merits once the new Zune software is released. But in terms of breadth, layout and social utility, Zune sends Genius back to school.

Microsoft plans to release the new software Sept 16th.

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