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Monday, July 24, 2006

Why Zune Is Doomed

Wired is whistling a dirge for Microsoft's upcoming PMP:

But its grand plan to play musical Switzerland to a host of third-party vendors, as it has done in the PC market, has proven as popular as Swiss music. (Cue accordions and alpenhorns.) No slight to the Swiss; I'm a big fan of the music-subscription idea. But the companies that use it, like Rhapsody, Napster and iRiver, have so far failed to dent Apple's lead. The system, while great in theory, is unwieldy in practice. Microsoft has to roll out changes to each and every partner, rather than implementing them itself, the way Apple does. One manufacturer told me it had to delay the launch of a player because it was waiting for Microsoft to send out the USB-2.0 spec. And the situation appears to be similar when it comes to digital rights management. Updates to Microsoft's complicated DRM schemes can cause serious compatibility problems, because the chain between Microsoft and supported MP3 hardware is so long. Changes to its online music stores can cause files not to transfer to "PlaysForSure" MP3 players, and so on.
-- Microsoft IPod 'Killer' Is Doomed

It goes on to say that while the additional features are nice, they're not likely to detract people from the iPod brand. I'm inclined to agree. Zune, actually, reminds me of Origami. For weeks people talked about how Microsoft would be rolling out a PC-level portable gaming machine which would knock the socks off the DS and PSP. Instead, we get a rehashed Tablet PC with a flip-phone sensibility. I think Wired's being a little too gloomy here, perhaps, because they're ignoring the role the 360 might play in the device's popularity. I don't see Microsoft taking the next Walkman crown, though.

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Greg Tannahill said...

Honestly, if this were anyone but Wired saying the Zune was doomed when we still know this little about it, we'd tell them to go back to Kotaku or Joystiq and play with their fanboi friends. Or, you know, something that made me sound more mature when I said it out loud.

I think that unless Zune is inherently fatally crippled in some way that makes it impractical or baffling to the everyman user, then its success or otherwise is really going to be based on the strength of Microsoft's marketing - and that's never particularly been a Microsoft weak point.

Heck, even the sinking of the PS3 has been as much a complete marketing apocalypse as it has been poor design choices.

Josh said...

I think it will do OK - but I don't see the iPod shivering anytime soon.

Microsoft is so damn diverse these days, they don't need everything to be a rockstar. Let's not forget the oft spoken rumors that both the Xbox and WebTV were, if anything else, convenient tax write-offs.