I recently bought the new Zune flash player it's the 8 gb model and gave it a quick once over. So far the player appears to be a solid competitor to the ipod nano. The first thing you notice when trying out some of the pre-loaded content is the outstanding video quality. The screen is a bit smaller than the nano (1.8 inches vs 2.0) but the clarity of the picture seems a little better. That's a subjective observation and could change in time. The sound quality with the same bit rate song ripped from the same cd sounded slightly better on the zune, again a totally subjective observation. I should note that neither in my opinion have the sound quality of the hard drive based Cowon iaudio6 a 4 gb player with the best sound quality of any mp3 player I've tried.
The interface on the zune is also excellent. The squircle? if thats whats it called was easy to learn and is only slightly less functional than the ipods click wheel. I prefer the the menu as it starts up , choosing between the various categories is easy, better for me than the ipod because the larger font make it easier for my eyes to quickly pick out a catagory, than on the ipod. That however changes quickly when a category is chosen. Individual songs are very small when trying to find your selection. The ipod however is really no better, anyone without perfect vision will strain to see what they're playing on either player.
I find the players to be basically equal head to head at this point. The wireless features of the Zune for both syncing with the Zune software and sharing with other Zunes I haven't yet had a chance to use, and I don't expect to any time soon.
The Zune does have an FM radio, a nice feature I will use in time. the ipod has an equalizer that I've never bothered to use, the Zune does not.
My own preference for the players themselves while using them out in the field and in the car would go to the Zune but not by much.
The software on the Zune is very nice. I was able to find pretty much all the podcast I was interested in and I'd say it presented the podcast in a way that I ended up trying several new podcasts that I never saw or just didn't notice in itunes. The music library seems well stocked with a great selection of artists and tracks. But there is no way this compares to itunes or the seamless way it finds your artist and then tells you what others have downloaded. I find itunes superior overall to the Zune store for overall use, and I must say the color of the Zune store is hideous, pink, what where they thinking.
Compatibility: Zune is a windows based product, period, xp service pack 2 and beyond only. Itunes I believe goes all the way back to windows 2000 and beyond and of coarse Mac os 10.2 and beyond!
Well that's my first impression I'll continue to use both my 8gb nano and the 8gb Zune for the forseeable future until I get sick of some feature in one or the other. I have a huge collection on itunes but the zune software allows for a monthly subscription service I'll try out eventually.