I finally did get the Zune player working a few weeks ago, and my daughter has enjoyed using it ever since with the same set of songs, videos, photos, and podcasts I first loaded onto it. But she wanted some different stuff, so today I borrowed by dad's Windows laptop again and set about updating the little device.
What a freaking pain! Even though the Zune software was fully installed and working, somehow it had forgotten most of the subscriptions I had set up, and was still slow, scatterbrained, unintuitive, and frustrating. Getting new media on it took well over an hour, since I had to try a couple of different approaches.
I'm a Mac guy, yes, but I've been using PCs for more than 25 years, and even worked for a Windows software developer for almost five of them. Yet every time I have to install or manage something using Windows, my wife and kids know to leave me alone, because it turns me into Mr. Grumpy Boy. The Zune software only compounds the problem—somehow Microsoft, the company that makes both Windows and the Zune, can't get them to play nice with each other. At least not for me.
So I'm reinforcing my original conclusion: the Zune device is very nice, with a pleasant and useful interface. It works well once you have media on it. If some third party (or Microsoft, not likely) made a Mac client to manage it, I'd quite like the little player. But the Zune software you have to use to manage it is crap, and only runs on Windows, which for me makes it doubly crap.
Grr. Grumble. Phht. I'm glad I didn't have to pay for the thing.