Zune vs. iPod Language Handling Differences

iPod touch and Microsoft Zune

An odd confluence of events took place over the past few days. First, my Mac mini died suddenly and without warning last week (which left me Mac media-less since I don’t keep media on my Macbook). My iPod touch arrived on Monday. Then, Microsoft announced the new Zunes yesterday. My 1st generation Zune doesn’t have the 2.0 update yet. But, it got me thinking about the Zune again. So, I decided to put music from the same CD on both devices to see if my non-golden ears could hear any difference. I used a CD that my daughter and I have been listening to lately… Utada Hikaru’s Single Collection, Vol I (an import).

However, before I could get to the audio comparison I ran into some interesting differences in the way the Zune desktop software and iTunes dealt with the disc’s contents. Apple’s iTunes brought in the CD exactly as shown on the jacket. Title parts that were in English (roman letters) remained in English. Title characters in Katakana (phonetic Japanese characters) stayed that way. The Zune software, on the other hand, decided to, um, transliterate from Katakana characters to roman alphabet. The Zune software couldn’t figure out one of the titles at all though. So, it is listed as “[Untranslated]”.
The other difference that amused me was how the Zune software and iTunes decided to deal with the artist’s name. iTunes left it Japanese characters and sorted it out of range (after “Z”). The Zune decided to transliterate it to “Hikaru Utada”. And, this confused me when I tried to search alphabetically by artist. You see it reversed the expected Surname/Given-Name order (Utada Hikaru) to the western Given-Name/Surname order (Hikaru Utada). So, I was doubly confused. It was not listed in the “U” section or out of range (after Z).

It will be interesting to see what the Zune 2.0 firmware update and, presumably, new Zune desktop software does when it becomes available.