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  • Microsoft’s Zune: Is This Any Way to Promote a New Product?

    September 15th, 2006

    Maybe you haven’t noticed, but rather quietly, I thought, Microsoft has taken the wraps, such as they were, off its latest “iPod Killer,” the Zune player.

    You would think, after all these years of struggling to gain some traction in the music download and player marketplace, Microsoft would make a big deal of this event, but it seemed as if the press conference was almost an afterthought. Little about this device, actually being assembled by Toshiba, is terribly surprising, since details of the major features, such as Wi-Fi, have been published already.

    Now when Apple has a new product to offer, they make a huge splash. The press gets a specially-crafted invitation, with appropriate hints to drive the rumor sites into heated speculation. The Web site is quickly updated to reflect the introduction as soon as the media session is over.

    So what did Microsoft do with its site after talking about Zune?

    Nothing, not a thing. The home page at microsoft.com didn’t even make a big deal about the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system. Instead they were concentrating on a mobil phone being marketed by singular. All right, maybe their servers were virus-laden and they couldn’t do the updates. No, I’m not reporting a fact; I’m just being facetious.

    Next, I searched the site using the keyword “Zune.”

    “Did you mean: zone,” the response indicated?

    The first entry in the search screen was a link to a Microsoft analyst meeting in which Zune was discussed. Over the two pages in the search results screen, there was nothing about the official product unveiling, not a thing!

    Now, I suppose that’ll probably be remedied by the time you read this article, but that’s not the point. It’s clear to me that Microsoft’s “ditch your iPod” campaign has already misfired.

    Worse, it’s not at all certain when this misbegotten product will be out, except some time before the holiday season is in full swing. Even the price wasn’t disclosed, although, with a 30GB capacity, the Zune is going to have to be competitive with the entry-level standard iPod at $249.

    As to the Zune player itself, I haven’t seen the interface in action. But everything Microsoft says so far seems to indicate they are making the same mistake as all the failed iPod killers that preceded their product. Rather than compete on snazzy looks and world-class usability, they are striving to pack on the features. I suppose they hope you won’t notice as you struggle with the built-in Wi-Fi, the FM tuner, and you wonder why your battery life sucks.

    No, Microsoft hasn’t disclosed what battery life is going to be, although I suspect the wireless capability will be switchable, so it’s not there all the time draining battery life at full tilt. At least I hope they understand that the network of Zune-addicts they hope to establish is going to be mighty upset if their players require a recharge after just a few hours of use.

    As to that wireless capability, it’s designed to allow you to share your tracks with friends and family. That sounds fine, and it’s a little reminiscent of your ability to share your iTunes library over a network from your Mac or PC. However, an extremely odious DRM is in place, so if you happen to “borrow” a track from a friend, you can only play it three times in three days, after which you’ll have to buy your own copy to make it active again.

    Now while this may make sense from an anti-piracy point of view, what happens if you take the files from a member of your own family. Do they expect you to still buy that song twice so two Zunes can play it whenever they want?

    Microsoft claims to be in this for the long haul, and this is but the first product. You’d expect, that if they wanted to really make traction against Apple, they do so with a splash and not a splatter.

    Oh yes, the rumors that Microsoft was apparently planning to buy your iTunes music so it could be transferred to Zune are not going to come to pass.

    As far as I’m concerned, there may be a better music player out there, somewhere, one that’ll truly offer the right combination of state-of-the-arts appeal and a wonderful, seamless music download experience that’ll give Apple a real run for its money.

    But it won’t come from Microsoft.



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    12 Responses to “Microsoft’s Zune: Is This Any Way to Promote a New Product?”

    1. Dave says:

      mobil phone being marketed by singular

    2. Robert Pritchett says:

      “The Hebrew Perspective” offers the meaning of being “Zuned”

      http://weblogs.asp.net/rosherove/archive/2006/08/26/Zune-_2D00_-The-Hebrew-Perspective.aspx

    3. DanH says:

      If they did try to promote it like Apple does, then you’d probably complain about that too. So whats the point? When a new Ferrari is made, no big splash either.

    4. Erin says:

      Perhaps we should ask the opposite: Why should Apple do so much type in its promotions?

      Really, if Apple created a new iPod and did a simple press release, everybody would pick up the story (that’s why its called a press release) and write about it any way and people would buy it.

      The answer?: It’s not a requirement to do a fancy press release. However, the ecosystem of the iPod extends beyond the iPod and iTunes itself. Promotions are part of the iPod ecosystem and must be real cool.

    5. Karl says:

      # DanH Says:
      September 15th, 2006 at 6:39 am

      If they did try to promote it like Apple does, then you’d probably complain about that too. So whats the point? When a new Ferrari is made, no big splash either.

      Yeah maybe a new Ferrari doesn’t make a splash on a major news network. Ferrari has a very limited audience unlike a MP3 player.

      My guess is that Microsoft isn’t really sure if it will gain traction against the iPod so they aren’t hyping it up very much.

      I think that Zune has already benefited iPod users. Apple lowered prices with the new versions. I am speculating that was in part to force Microsoft to keep their prices down. Which in turn makes Microsoft less certain about entering the market and still make a profit.

    6. Jeff says:

      “Now while this may make sense from an anti-piracy point of view, what happens if you take the files from a member of your own family. Do they expect you to still buy that song twice so two Zunes can play it whenever they want?”

      Exactly. What at first sounds like a killer feature is going to be totally destroyed by DRM by the labels.

      Have a physical copy of the CD and want to share a song with a pal? Go ahead, but he’s only got three days to listen and then he has to pay for his own copy … IF it is available in Microsoft’s store.

    7. KenC says:

      Social networking? Didn’t iPod users have that already? I mean, remember the stories about people ‘walking up to a stranger, and pulling out there iPod headphones, and sticking yours in their ear?” And, haven’t we seen audio splitters to allow two sets of headphones on one iPod?

      And, about that Zune name, I want to go to Montreal and say to a hot girl, ‘I’ll show you my zuone, if you show me yours!’

      Ultimately, the only truly new feature is the wifi social networking aspect. However, this will be much like the iSight camera is on my Mac. Unless you can find someone else with iChat, you won’t be using it too much. And, the same goes for Zune, until there’s a critical mass of Zunes amongst your friends, you won’t be beaming too many things to too many people. If you do, you’ll be doing it connected to a power outlet somewhere. I can only see Zunes being an odd niche product. Some club bar somewhere, will have Zunes attached to every table, allowing the patrons to Zune each other with their pics and musical tastes. This might have a use in the Middle Eastern countries where the sexes are segregated into different rooms of a club.

    8. Doktor says:

      brown…brown?…BROWN?!?

      So microsuck is saying the the zune is a piece of s— even before it’s released?

    9. None says:

      Zune sucks.

    10. David says:

      To me it is rather surprising that a company with microsoft’s resources can’t do things better. I think Gene nailed it: ms already blew it coming out of the gate. You can practically hear the backpeddling already… “this is only our first player”, etc etc. Also, why did they just private label a Toshiba instead of actually building something. I actually think this whole zune project makes ms look kind of pathetic. Maybe bill gates is getting out in time.

    11. Mike Peter Reed says:

      If they did try to promote it like Apple does, then you’d probably complain about that too. So whats the point? When a new Ferrari is made, no big splash either.

      Bad analogy. You obviously don’t watch Top Gear or watch F1 commentary.

    12. Jon T says:

      Let’s face it. Microsoft is a business with BIG BIG problems. It is trying to solve (some of) those problems by opening up new avenues. It has to FIX what it has. IDENTIFY what it is good at. And last but not least, it must FOCUS. trying to be everything to everyone is its own perfect recipe for failure.

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