You'll find all files sent to you in the inbox area. This keeps this temporary library separated from the main library to avoid confusion. Contrary to popular belief, there is no DRM wrapper placed on the file. Instead, the device's inbox manages the rights. You can choose to clear the inbox or a specific file, but that info will still be transferred to the Zune software, which features an inbox view. This is where you can pick up the songs you like or have flagged.
While many will complain about the limitations of Wi-Fi on this device (and we're not talking about three days/three plays), Microsoft wants the overall experience to be as simple as possible... and it is. Look for Microsoft to expand the Wi-Fi capabilities soon. It takes about 10 seconds to transfer a song. Longer songs can take up to 15 seconds. Since you can play a song three times or within three days, you might be wondering what happens if you play a part of the song. A 'play' equals at least one minute or half the song, whichever comes first.
We'd love to see a customisable thumbnail that identifies your device to other users -- today, it's just text. However, you can set your Zune to display either details to other Zunesters (such as 'Listening to Ray LaMontagne') or a basic 'online' message. You can block specific users from sending content to you. One interesting note: if you're listening to music and someone wants to send you a song and you say yes, your music will stop and not automatically continue after the download. So blocking some overly friendly users might be a good move. Conversely, if you want to send someone a song, you'll have to do so by going back up to the song's menu page, or in some cases within the playback context menu. Once you send the file, your music will stop playing, so in a way, sharing spoils the personal party.
There's no definitive word about Zune-to-PC wireless transfers or network-based sharing or purchasing, but we imagine this will come eventually.
Software and overall performance
The Zune Marketplace software is a critical part of the Zune experience and Microsoft has mostly enabled the two to work very well together. Based on the Windows Media Player in design, the interface is dark, clean and stable. It's aesthetically pleasing and functional, with plenty of album art represented and sparse text in the left-hand navigation pane. The left-hand pane features all of your content broken down into music, video and photos, and at the top is an inbox view that displays all content shared, plus anything you've flagged.
Here's an example of the usefulness of the inbox: a friend has shared a tune with you and it expires. The content will show up in your inbox even after it's expired, so you can conveniently hit the search button to locate and purchase it (cool way to get more sales, Microsoft). Digging deeper, we noticed that there's no easy way to separate out your purchased tracks from the din. Zune peeps -- please add a purchased tracks (or subscription) tracks playlist.
The Zune Marketplace jukebox features are fairly standard -- burning, ripping and music management, though power users might want to use an additional piece of software for deeper activities such as transcoding, podcasts (there's no podcast section) and recording. It will rip CDs into MP3, WMA and WMA Lossless (though the Zune will not play lossless files) at up to 192Kbps. The Zune Marketplace does have a Media Sharing feature that allows you to stream music, video and photos to an Xbox 360. The device itself can be connected to an Xbox 360 via USB.