The Zune Flopped?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the Zune. Mentioning that I thought it has "flopped" My post was picked up by a couple Zune forums and web sites that seem to think that I was calling the race a bit too early. After careful consideration, I don't think I was. I still believe that my statement that the Zune "flopped" is accurate.

I didn't write that post to dog Microsoft or to blast the Zune. I wrote it because I believe that the Zune launch should have been much more powerful a force to deal with than it was. Think about it - there was massive groundswell and hype that surrounded the launch, it felt like you were waiting for an Apple product when you read about it. There was so much publicity that the Zune should have skyrocketed out of the gate.

Instead, Microsoft blew almost every chance they had. Too bad, because from all I've seen and heard, the Zune is not a bad machine - It's just not a machine that will unseat the iPod in terms of marketshare dominance anytime soon.

Of course, I could be wrong. Microsoft could react with a great "round 2" and fix some problems and introduce killer features - I just don't think they will.

But what if they do?

To be fair to the guys in the Zune Forums, I'll spend some effort in making a list of things that in my opinion might allow to Zune to take some market share:

1. Make it smaller than the iPod... and "simpler" looking - Ditch any extra buttons and lose the metal-looking frame on the screen and "control circle" area. They make the machine look a bit more complex than it should. Simple is better. Simpls is less threatening.

2. Sell it in colors that appeal to teenage girls. Pinks, greens, blues... lose the brown.

3. Let me buy songs via wi-fi.

4. All music should behave in the same way. What is this that I hear about only being able to "squirt" some of your music, and is it true that you don't know which music is "Squirtable" until you try to "Squirt" it?. (And why is it called "Squirting" again?)

5. All music should be sold the same way. Trust me... .99 cents is way easier than .79 "points." Drop the multiple forms of payment - leave the Zune Pass for the "Plays for sure" devices and only sell by song. It works for Apple and it can work for you.

6. Tell the record labels that they will have to play ball... Not the other way around. Every time you bend to them, you make my life harder. One song price, one album price - more than that and I start to lose interest. You can always negotiate by asking them what it feels like to be Steve's bitch.

7. Build in the FM transmitter, don't worry about the receiver... We buy these devices to replace the radio, not to play it. I don't think you can use the "iPod" plugs that are available from the dealer in almost all new cars. (Yes - I know that Ford offers this, but the cars that matter are high end European luxury cars or Japanese econocars.)

8. Give away free noise-canceling in-ear headphones to all iPod owners you can find. Make sure the headphone cables are black. (think about it)

9. Build "Zune-pod" kiosks at every Starbucks. These will be wireless devices that offer to "squirt" music to any Zunes present. This will ease the feelings of lonely Zune-aholics and give them a place to congregate. To get to the new social, you have to go through the old social first.

10. Make the Zune work on a Mac. I don't think that you would have many sales here, but you need to take the war to the enemy.

The last time I wrote about the Zune, I got a few choice words thrown at me. I can't wait to hear what comes back this time ;-)



  1. You make some valid points but they are stylist. The problem with the zune is that it offers no compelling value proposition over the iPod. All of the marketing seems to be "Zune.. it's as good as the iPod... but brown". MS needs something radically different if it has a chance against SanDisk and Creative let alone Apple.

  2. Think about how many things Microsoft has tried to do in the past ten years that either failed, or came in a distant second or third place.

    They tried to be a search engine but got beaten by Google. They tried to be an instant messenger, but got beaten by AOL and Yahoo. They tried to be the internet's banking system (remember Wallet and Passport?), but got beaten by Paypal. Now with the Zune, it's like they aren't even trying. Compare this performance to Microsoft in the 80's and 90's when they aggressively cornered the market for operating systems, spreadsheets, word processing, software development and a host of other products. You can bet that being second best was not their plan. But here it is.

    I was a loyal Microsoft guy for a long, long time. I ran their OS, used their compilers, wrote code to their APIs. If it wasn't in Windows I didn't want it. Now I write Java, I use open-source development tools, and half my computers run Linux. I don't care about Vista - when the day comes that I need a new personal workstation, I'll probably buy a Mac.

    MS fought the good fight. I was proud of them in the days when they took on stodgy IBM and helped redefine what computing was. But they've lost touch. Now they are IBM, and the torch has been passed to companies like Apple, Google and Yahoo.

  3. i just like the ipod video better, you can use itunes which is great and it looks nicer plus its apple which is just cooler than ms, i am definitely getting an ipod video.

  4. I feel like an odd ball now, because I want to support the zune. I just bought a zune, and I totally 100% believe that its just as good as the ipod video, maybe even better, but definitely not worse. First things first, greg I have nothing to say to you but flarosa, true they may fail at all those things but what about the things they dont fail at? I personally think that Microsoft has way better computers than apple, plus they've made one of the best cosole systems available; the xbox 360. Harry, I agree, itunes does look "nice", but the zune also has its own market place, which I say looks the same or better, and is definitely not a reason to think the ipod is better than the zune. I also like to make a comment about the size; sure the zunes a little bigger than an ipod video, but not so big as to decrease the sales because of it. In fact the zune has a bigger screen than an ipod video (Which I like very much.) Last but not least, I enjoy being able to listen to the radio from my zune without having to buy any extra equpiment.

    I am not trying to make any enemies, simply trying to make a point. I hope some of you will post back.

  5. I chose the Zen vision (not the M or W)over both the Ipod and Zune. Why? The main reason was the screen size and resolution, it doesn't get any better. Other than that, it play's alot of different formats, it's easy to manage, uploads and downloads fast (Ipod's and PC's just don't seem to get along), battery is replaceable, reads flash memory (as well as others), and it comes w/ all hardware necessarry to hook it up to almost anything right out of the box.

    Ipod definitly has this market but I'm really glad there are more choices available than just what Mac has to offer. To me they are TOO simple, and TOO confined to what apple wants you to "enjoy".

  6. Another couple of points to considered are the screen sizes and sponsors. Macs Ipod has had a long run and has gone through some changes and adjustments (such as adding the controls to the select wheel) and i think that the Zune could also. Nice work on the blog.

  7. Valid points, two things though.
    personlly i hate that stupid finger touch wheel, my fingers are calloused from playing guitar and it only works for me half the time its a drag. and its brown its black, i have one. its defintly sturdier then an ipod, longer battery life, and my favourite part( and mostly the reason i got it) was for the much larger screen, the ipod screen is so small. I'm just going to make a pros and cons list about it.
    The good: ( this is based on my experience)

    Larger screen (Finally!)
    no finger scroll that magically jumps up and down.
    longer battery life.
    better sound quality (this is arguable but compared to my ipod both my freind and I agree that the zune has better sound quality than an ipod.
    You can use napster with it but most people use limewire anways ( i don't of course)
    It goes louder then an ipod.
    It plays mp3's ( so you can use napster and play it off of more devices as mp3 format is more stansard.
    cheaper then an ipod
    The not so good:
    radio is nice as i can listen to the news and such but thats not a reason i bout it.
    the zune to zune sharing thing is just a pitiful attempt to sell the product, its only usefull if a freind of yours has a zune.
    a tiny bit bigger and a tiny bit heavier then an ipod video, but it still fits nicely in your pocket.
    The software it comes with is extremly clumsie and stupid compared to ipod's easy to use itunes, but you get used to it, it can do pretty much everything itunes can.
    on average it has smaller storage then most video ipods (ipod= 30 60 and 80 gigs i beleive.) the zune is only 30, but still way more than i will every use. if you have 80 gigs of stuff on an ipod, sorry man but you have no life.

  8. After looking at the leaked pictures of the new Zune, I can't help but think that Microsoft reads my blog.

    And of course, with the rumors of Apple iPod song kiosks, perhaps Apple does as well ;-)

    Thanks all for the comments!


  9. Haha I liked point 8 best. You got some good points there.

  10. I just came across this rant and it is just completely ridiculous. I hope you don't do this sort of thing for a living because if you do you may want to pick a new profession. Not only Has the Zune made an even better 2nd gen. version but your main argument is that it should look more like an iPod. WHY! If a company is going to compete with another they're not going to make it look just like the competitions. Ya make it look "simpler" like the iPod. Why didn't you say they should change the name to a iZune or a zPod. Looks like the Zune is making the iPods spot on top a little cramped.

  11. Paul,

    You miss my point, and do not appear to have read the post very well.

    I'm not saying make the Zune look like the iPod, but rather make the Zune "simpler" because that is the reason the iPod is a success.

    The Zune is like a VCR flashing "12:00" back in the 1980's

    Thanks for the comment.