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 AAS News: The Sony Ericsson (W960's) Media Manager

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PostSubject: AAS News: The Sony Ericsson (W960's) Media Manager   Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:23 am



For those of you with a music collection on
your PC, on first installing, Media Manager started scuttling round my
hard drive to build up a list of all the media it could find. A long
process (roughly 15 minutes on my laptop’s 80GB hard drive) but after
this was completed, you’re taken into the main application (it only
happens on first running, subsequently opening the application jumps
straight to the main screen).

 

W960

 

So
the core of the application is a split screen view, with your PC's
contents on the top, and the W960's on the bottom, and you can switch
between various ‘media types’ with the tabs at the top. These are Music
on your PC, CD Music, Pictures, Video,  RSS, PC Transfer and Settings.

All
of these are available bar Video, for which you’ll need to purchase
Media Manager Pro from Sony Ericsson – this seems a bit of a cheat,
after you’ve spent your money on a video capable smartphone – it’s also
a similar trick to what Sony did with the PSP, making users buy all the
media transfer software beyond basic USB Mass Storage connectivity.  So
if you want to check this out, then it’s another $10 direct to Sony
Ericsson. (It's also not necessary, as the W960 will play standard MP4
clips and there are many free MP4 encoders -Ed)

 

W960 No Video

 

Managing Digital Music

After
the time Media Manager takes to index your media, I was hoping for a
big searchable list of all my music tracks, with all the info tags
read, and able to be sorted by artist, track name, or album.,
Unfortunately this was not to be.

The
collapsed folder view on the left side of the screen illustrates how
Sony Ericsson think Media Manager will be used – so you’ll need to be
comfortable with navigating a directory structure. Open up these
directories and you’ll eventually get to a folder that has music files
in it – and the info grabbed from the tags in the music files will be
on display for Artist and Album, but strangely not the track name – you
see the file name, which isn’t always the same.

Remind
me again why I spent all that time letting you index the files and I
still have to plough through a mix and mash of files and folders? It’s
a little bit frustrating.

 

W960 Media Manager

 

Searching
for specific tracks is about the only saving grace for this part of
Music Manager – thanks to the indexing it’s lightning fast as you start
to type in the find box, and it narrows the results down with every
keypress – and, unlike on the W960 itself, you can search for strings
in the middle of a name (so 'CH' will pick up Voodoo Chile). It doesn’t
make up for the previous flaws, but it does make them easier to live
with.

Transferring Your Music

You
drag it from the top screen (be it digital music, CD, or an RSS feed
item) to the bottom – i.e. PC to phone, and it gets put in the right
place on your phone. If you prefer a big arrow button to press, you
have that as well. No holding lists, no intermediate boxes, just ‘boom’
it’s over. Simple.

One little
tweak is available for music files – if you want to change the bit-rate
(and hence have a smaller file size) during the transfer, there’s a
dropdown on the PC box at the top right to over-ride the default rate
you have requested in the settings.

 

W960

 

Ripping Your CDs

Much
like the transfer of files, this has been kept as simple as possible.
Pop the CD into the tray and the display will call up a similar view to
the digital music view, i.e. title, artists and album name. These are
worked out using the Gracenotes CDDB lookup system, an online index of
music. The list of tracks on the CD can be manipulated and transferred
in the same way as other digital music – the ripping and converting of
the music is done when you start the transfer with a drag and drop or
one-click move.

Pictures

Media
Manager also provides a simple interface to move your pictures from
your W960 – and this is where the choice of a file based system, as
opposed to one of music playlists helps. Because the directory system
which is sometimes awkward for music proves to be perfect for
transferring pictures from the phone into your PC’s file system; with
the added bonus of clear thumbnails on both the PC and mobile side.

RSS and Podcasts

RSS
also makes its first appearance in the PC client, and as far as I’m
aware, it’s the first time RSS and Podcast ‘sync’ has appeared on a
client side piece of software since iTunes. It’s very rough and ready –
you’ll still need to manually transfer the files over from the PC to
the W960, but you can set up your favourite feeds, either one at a
time, or by importing an OPML list of your favourite RSS feeds.

You
can toggle the settings to check for new podcasts, from 'every hour' up
to 'once a day' – or you can leave it on manual update to grab files
when you are in the mood.

Like
the initial ethos of the application, this is the simplest way possible
to bring podcasts into the W960 – there’s no podcast category on the
W960, so you’ll have to find them as you would any other track.
Hopefully this is going to be cured in later firmware updates.

 

Media Manager and RSS

 

Remember The Focus

Rafe’s
pointed out that what Sony Ericsson have here is very similar to the
Disc2Phone software that was bundled with the W950 – it relied on the
folder metaphor as well, with a screen in the middle listing what was
about to transfer, and then the contents of the device on the right – a
simple three column layout that was easy to understand. So why did I
love that and not get on so well with this?

I’m
pretty sure it’s because of the targeting of the application.
Disc2Phone was a simple, one-shot utility to facilitate getting your
music onto the W950 – it was optimised for getting over folders of
music. Music Manager (and the clue here is the word ‘manager’) adds in
a lot more features (RSS, video and pictures, which we’ll look at next)
and expands the scope of the application away from the tight focus of
Disc2Phone. Yet this sprawl of functions isn’t matched by more features
or options. It’s Sony Ericcson's way or the highway.

A
key question has to be is how Media Manager is meant to be used – it’s
based very heavily on the folder structure of music on your PC, so the
target audience of young professionals is going to be familiar with all
the options and will be able to get the best out of the application.
It’s just a shame that the application's lofty goals don’t match up to
its rather basic capabilities.

Summary

Much
as the W960 frustrates me because it just misses being a good, solid,
well thought out product, Media Manager does the same. In the lab it
may be wonderful, but out in the real world its missing features and
technical assumptions of knowledge stop it being anything more than
cumbersome and functional. The point of any music managing software is
NOT to show me how the hard drive is organised – it’s to make it quick
and easy to get to my music, put what I want on the phone, and do it
without getting me frustrated.

As for part three, there's a lot of smaller music and media functions on the W960, and I'll be looking at them next.

Ewan Spence


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