Please, Microsoft, may I have another?
Posted by aogFriday, 05 January 2007 at 10:37 TrackBack Ping URL

Apparently the Dark Empire’s digital music player, the Zune, is not warming many hearts out in the real world. Some of the issues are just hilarious —

  • The reviewer had to install a DLL on the player to make it work.
  • Zune is not compatiable with Windows Media Player.
  • Zune does not support the Dark Empire’s own Play For Sure digital rights management.
  • Zune don’t do podcasts.
  • Zune doesn’t interoperate with the XBox store.
  • Even free, self produced content that is transferred between Zune players gets expired after three plays.
  • Zune has a large display, but was originally not planned to play video, a design that would have a strong impact on battery life for no benefit.

Is there a single one of these that wouldn’t have been an obvious problem from the start?

What I suspect is that the Dark Empire doesn’t care about Zune success, that it’s simply an experiment. As noted here

Microsoft now says that the first Zune is only a test and that next year it will release an entirely new set of hardware with new and better features. It has not committed to supporting the current Zune player or providing new software releases in the future.

Just like Microsoft Windows, it is likely that Zune won’t be a worth while product until version 3 or so. Selling it on the market lets Microsoft reduce its overall research costs without apparently having any impact on its long term sales. As long as that works, why not?

It also illustrates that a list of cool hardware features does not guarantee a good product. The difference between Microsoft and Apple seems to be that Apple is able to figure out the additional infrastructure needed before shipping. However, this has its downside, in that Microsoft’s approach means that it is constantly adjusting and adapting, even if slowly. Apple’s market failings have (IMHO) come from the fact that it did so well at the start that it didn’t seem to think it needed to change later, allowing the lumbering giant to eventually pass it by.

Via Samizdata.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Jeff Guinn Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 07:06


I think Apple’s failing was a victory of tactics over strategy.

When Apple first released the Mac, had the company gone for market share instead of profit margin, the whole story could have turned out very differently.

Andrea Harris Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 07:09

I bought a Creative Zen Microphoto thing. It holds 8 megabytes, and works just fine for my limited needs. I don’t even use the photo part, yet.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 10:14

Mr. Guinn;

In some sense. Having lived through and been a motivated observer at the time, I am of the school that most of Apple’s loss can be traced to CEO Scully, who seemed to run the company with the philosophy “if it’s selling now, why improve?”. In contrast, Apple has been good about line expansion and improvement with the iPod, leading to a continued market dominance.

Ms. Harris;

I presume you mean 8 gigabytes. I generally good reviews for the other big name music players (Creative / Zen, Sony, etc.) and I think the Zen was on my short list when I bought my iPod. It was the iPod nano form factor that was the deciding factor for me, as I preferred to all of the hard disk based styles. But that simply brings up another failing of the Dark Empire, in that other lines have some variety in features / form factor precisely because people are different.

cjm Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 12:19

if apple had realeased the mac o/s for intel h/w, at the beginning, they would have stripped that market away from ms.

ipod sales have peaked, and are now falling. their pricing model is inflexible; subscription models are clearly the way to go (especially since drm can be stripped off easily :)

jobs just can’t operate in a low margin environment, and that is what keeps apple so small.

Michael Herdegen Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 15:06

There is something to be said for the low-margin/large-market-share operation, such as Dell or Wal~Mart, but I prefer a high-margin operation. Why accept the headaches of a mammoth business, for pennies at the margin ?

David Cohen Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 16:54

Michael: Because someone’s always trying to take it away from you, on the theory that they’ll capture the market at 99% of your margin.

David Cohen Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 16:56

Apple is committing the same mistake with iPod/iTunes as they did with computers/Mac OS. They’re making it needlessly difficult to mix and match with other people’s hardware and software.

Annoying Old Guy Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 17:38

Mr. Cohen;

I don’t see that as their fundamental mistake. There are compensating advantages to consumers of a lack of interopability, the primary one being reliability. Everyone mocks Windoze for being so unstable, but no small part of that is the fact that people mix and match all sorts of hardware and drivers for that hardware. It’s a situation ripe for problems. In contrast, the limited set of hardware available in an Apple not only limits the space for such problems but enables Apple to do a more thorough job of testing for compatibility and third party reliability.

Andrea Harris Saturday, 06 January 2007 at 20:12

“8 gigabytes”

Yeah, that one. I will admit, I bought it because it also has an FM radio receiver. I couldn’t find an iPod that had that. Orlando has an okay jazz station I like to listen to sometimes.

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