Is Microsoft in Zune to win?

When I interviewed Steve Ballmer a few years back he said Microsoft is in the game to win.

But when you’re inside Microsoft the employees use different language. Many projects there are simply defensive ones. To keep a competitor from getting more inroads into one of its businesses. iPod, for instance, isn’t threatening to Microsoft directly, but they started the Zune project up when they noticed that a decent percentage of people, after buying an iPod, would switch their computers from Windows to Macs. THAT threatens Microsoft’s core business.

The problem is that whenever you do something just to defend another business you don’t do it from a position of love. Or a position of strength.

Now, look at the new Zunes and the reaction they are getting from journalists and bloggers.

I’m totally uninspired. Yawn.

Where’s the 16:9 wide screen? Where’s the super-dooper-podcasting features (and why weren’t these announced last week at the Podcasting Expo? Talk about a blown opportunity)?

Michael Gartenberg says that the features are actually pretty good but the marketing/messaging sucks. Again, this is a defensive product. It’s not a visionary one like the Tablet PC that Gates came up with on his own. The execs probably told the Zune team “stop the bleeding” or something metaphorically equivilent and the fact that they did a good job is surprising to Gates.

On the other hand, Apple HAS pissed off many of its most rabid evangelists lately. This Gizmodo post is one artifact of that. Apple’s treatment of developers and early adopters has opened up a marketing hole that Microsoft COULD take advantage of.

But only if Microsoft is in this game to win. It’s not. So we get uninspired product. Uninspired messaging. Uninspired launch dates.

Yawn. Wake me up when Macworld is here in January.

109 thoughts on “Is Microsoft in Zune to win?

  1. It’s the sound I care about most on my MP3 player, not nifty touchscreens or YouTube- I can see that on my PC. I just returned a Nano because of its flat, muted sound quality, but even without an EQ I can hear a world of difference with the same headphones on my Zune. Apple can offer me all the cool capabilities and features it wants, but until they upgrade the sub-standard sound on their MP3s and phones, I won’t be buying any of their portables.

  2. It’s the sound I care about most on my MP3 player, not nifty touchscreens or YouTube- I can see that on my PC. I just returned a Nano because of its flat, muted sound quality, but even without an EQ I can hear a world of difference with the same headphones on my Zune. Apple can offer me all the cool capabilities and features it wants, but until they upgrade the sub-standard sound on their MP3s and phones, I won’t be buying any of their portables.

  3. I’ve done some serious soul searching about the Zune and the Ipod, and this is why I’m choosing to hold out.

    1) The Ipod Touch screwed it all up. Now I absolutely need my mp3 player to have a web browser built in. Bye-bye Zune. And no, the fm tuner, wireless sharing (aka viral marketing ploy), and wireless sync don’t make up for a browser.

    2) To Ipod, who wants to spend $300+ dollars for a video/mp3/browser that can’t even store their entire mp3 collection? This rules out the Ipod Touch with its current weak 8 and 16GB models.

    3) What if I have a change of heart (or pocketbook) and decide I don’t need a browser. Then I’m really just comparing the Ipod classic to the Zune. They both have 80gb models for $250. Which is better? Honestly, it’s a close battle, but I have to go Ipod. It’s a nicer interface, a slicker screen, and it doesn’t support Microsoft’s questionable ethical history (guilty of abusing their monopoly, software piracy, antitrust, falsifying evidence, pushing their sorry OOXML standard, and perhaps worst of all, font plaigerism!). And trust me, I’m not an Apple lover and a Microsoft hater. Apple is a business, they’re out to make money. They’re definately riding the hype to the bank. They’re not afraid of a little gauge.

    So that’s my take. If Apple can create an Ipod Touch with a 30+GB hard drive for $300 bucks, I’m in. If Zune changes shape, gets a pretty ‘lil browser goin and a decent hard drive, I’ll go for it.

    P.S. The Iphone is cool, but still overpriced and not quite containing the hard-drive I need.

  4. I’ve done some serious soul searching about the Zune and the Ipod, and this is why I’m choosing to hold out.

    1) The Ipod Touch screwed it all up. Now I absolutely need my mp3 player to have a web browser built in. Bye-bye Zune. And no, the fm tuner, wireless sharing (aka viral marketing ploy), and wireless sync don’t make up for a browser.

    2) To Ipod, who wants to spend $300+ dollars for a video/mp3/browser that can’t even store their entire mp3 collection? This rules out the Ipod Touch with its current weak 8 and 16GB models.

    3) What if I have a change of heart (or pocketbook) and decide I don’t need a browser. Then I’m really just comparing the Ipod classic to the Zune. They both have 80gb models for $250. Which is better? Honestly, it’s a close battle, but I have to go Ipod. It’s a nicer interface, a slicker screen, and it doesn’t support Microsoft’s questionable ethical history (guilty of abusing their monopoly, software piracy, antitrust, falsifying evidence, pushing their sorry OOXML standard, and perhaps worst of all, font plaigerism!). And trust me, I’m not an Apple lover and a Microsoft hater. Apple is a business, they’re out to make money. They’re definately riding the hype to the bank. They’re not afraid of a little gauge.

    So that’s my take. If Apple can create an Ipod Touch with a 30+GB hard drive for $300 bucks, I’m in. If Zune changes shape, gets a pretty ‘lil browser goin and a decent hard drive, I’ll go for it.

    P.S. The Iphone is cool, but still overpriced and not quite containing the hard-drive I need.

  5. Excellent point Micah. Very well said. The bottom line is: Apple makes toys, MS software runs the world. Spin that fanboys.

  6. Excellent point Micah. Very well said. The bottom line is: Apple makes toys, MS software runs the world. Spin that fanboys.

  7. “Zune has, what, around 5% market share with iPod having most of the rest? Damn.”

    I think this is an odd argument, what is Apple’s OS marketshare compared to Windows, it’s what 6%-8% and the rest is Windows?

    Yet, it seems we are constantly hearing from you, that Apple is on the move they are threating MS with all their increased sales of Apple computers and “everyone” is switchig to mac.

    And it seems like you keep saying MS should be worried about that fact, but when it’s the Zune, which is certainly a long ways behind but has made huge steps in chopping down Apples Ipod dominance, then suddenly it’s not a “big deal” because they only have 5% marketshare.

    It seems like a total flip flop of statements simply because it’s a MS product that is behind rather than an Apple product that is behind.

    Hopefully I said that clearly :)

  8. “Zune has, what, around 5% market share with iPod having most of the rest? Damn.”

    I think this is an odd argument, what is Apple’s OS marketshare compared to Windows, it’s what 6%-8% and the rest is Windows?

    Yet, it seems we are constantly hearing from you, that Apple is on the move they are threating MS with all their increased sales of Apple computers and “everyone” is switchig to mac.

    And it seems like you keep saying MS should be worried about that fact, but when it’s the Zune, which is certainly a long ways behind but has made huge steps in chopping down Apples Ipod dominance, then suddenly it’s not a “big deal” because they only have 5% marketshare.

    It seems like a total flip flop of statements simply because it’s a MS product that is behind rather than an Apple product that is behind.

    Hopefully I said that clearly :)

  9. I have no idea why you consider the Zune defensive…Apple, who leads the market has to defend their postion. MS is free to try new things and take chances and go on the offensive. I mean come on? the iPod Touch!?!?! Having to use TWO hands to navigate the UI is not innovation.

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