Today, Microsoft released a new version of their music player the Zune
and again, they failed to offer something more than ‘good enough’.
In a market almost completely dominated by Apple’s iPod, their offering look like they could compete with last year’s iPods; that’s not good enough to compete with this year’s iPods.
They have a couple of features that iPods don’t have, like an FM radio tuner and wireless syncing, but nothing really compelling.
If the new Zunes existed in a world of their own, then they could be seen as excellent. However, they don’t and they aren’t. The Zunes are Microsoft’s answer to their own pathological need to enter and try to dominate every market that has any kind of software in it.
What they got right:
The new Zunes look sleeker than their predecessors
However, this is just a visual assessment. Last year’s Zunes looked good in pictures. But, about a month ago, I had the chance to hold one in my hand and my reaction ‘Wow, what a piece of crap’. It feels extremely clunky, especially when you compare it to the same year’s iPods. So, I’ll withhold further judgement on that one until I can hold one of these new ones in my hand.
It is nice to be able to sync your music player to your computer’s music library without having to connect it with a cable. Although, since you have to charge it usually, connecting it isn’t a big hassle. So this is nice to have, but not a big seller feature.
Nice to have sometime. Again, not the most compelling feature for a ‘Personal Music Player’. The biggest draw of all digital music players is that they allow you to listen to whatever you want, whenever you want. Having somebody else make a playlist for you and interrupt it with talking and commercials is not exactly what most people want. But, it’s nice to have if you like talk radio from time to time.
What they got wrong:
While this not exactly something wrong, it’s still a drawback. There is nothing about the new Zunes that makes you go ‘Ooh, I must have that’.
Still no Mac support
If Microsoft wants to be taken seriously and give the impression that they’re not just trying to extend their Windows monopoly, then they need to start supporting other platforms. Like it or not, Mac users tend to be influencers. If Microsoft can’t seem to get itself to appeal to those who have a greater influence in the consumer electronics market, then they show that they don’t understand the market they’re trying to dominate.
They announced this new version of their music player. But, it’s not available immediately (big mistake when they’re competing against Apple).
Their website is completely lame (I mean really, how hard is it to make a picture clickable? a tiny ‘learn more’ link is not enough).
The Zune’s site is a joke. For a company as big as Microsoft, you would think they could have hired an advertising company to design their promotional pages on the site. If you want to have a big share of a consumer electronics market, you have to get people excited about your products. Microsoft doesn’t give the impression that even they are excited about their own stuff. That impression carries to their audience.
The impression that I got from their site and from what I’ve read today in the media goes something like ‘Yeah, here is our new version of the Zune, we know it’s not as good as the new iPods, but we have to release something’.
The black one and the red one are OK, but the green and pink! ugh! those look like ugly toys. Got to have attractive colors.
That’s all I can think of without being able to see and hold one in person.
I’m a Mac user, and an iPod owner. I’m only disappointed in Microsoft because I believe that Apple is getting complacent. Currently, Apple doesn’t have any serious competition in the digital music players field. They’re not as innovative as they can be. Actually, that’s not the correct word. They are innovative, look at the iPod Touch. The more appropriate word is not ‘aggressive’ enough.
The iPod classic is basically the same as last year’s with bigger drives. No real innovation beyond a new metallic outer shell. Why there is no Touch with a big hard drive? If anybody is serious about watching video on an iPod, then the Touch has the largest screen, and consequently would need larger storage for the big video files. And why is there no Mail application on the Touch?
Only with healthy competition, can a healthy market exist. So far, nobody has put up any serious competition to Apple in the music player business.
To paraphrase Paul Giamatti’s character in ‘Shoot’em Up’, “Either Apple is really that good, or its competition really, really sucks”. From Microsoft’s recent offerings, it’s a bit of both.