Zune Failure

I have to admit, even if Microsoft does publicly recognize Google as its biggest and most successful business adversary, Ballmer sure does seem to care quite a bit about what Apple is doing.

Case in point: the Zune.

Even after Apple had established itself as the forerunner in the mp3 player industry with its iPod that was updated about every two years – to say nothing of the fact that it boasted several models, of which one almost always will appeal to anyone – Microsoft still wanted a slice of the pie.  So, it releases the Zune.

I can’t exactly say things have gone uphill for them ever since.

First, Microsoft announces DRM-protected media for the Zune, even after announcements by Apple and other vendors that they would be providing media without DRM protection.  Then, this past year, lots of Zunes were bricked by buggy firmware code which didn’t properly handle the fact that there were 366 days in a leap year (woohoo infinite loop!).  Now, revenue from the Zune has dropped 54 percent, or $100 million, of late.  Meanwhile, iPod sales were up 3 percent (in spite of a 16 percent revenue drop).

My honest opinion?  Microsoft got lucky with the Xbox.  They experienced reality with the Zune.  Time for them to stick to their bread and butter: corporate office productivity domination.  Even those numbers are beginning to give way, much more so because of Google and its online office productivity suite, as well as open source options like OpenOffice, than from Apple and their niche products.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my MacBook.  It is far more useful to me than any PC laptop could hope to be, and the work I get done on it more than pays for itself.  I also greatly admire Apple for its innovations over the decades, and how it continues to run its business.  But OS X isn’t what is going to dethrone Microsoft; it’s Google docs and spreadsheets and OpenOffice.  Everyone uses Microsoft Office, everyone knows how to use Microsoft Office, and it just so happens that Microsoft specifically built their office suite to interact very healthily with their operating system.  Only in the last decade has open source alternatives finally shown themselves to be capable of competing with the big boys, and even now they still fall short quite often in terms of functionality and ease of use.

Plus, Apple really could stand to drop its prices, even a little.  They’re reaping unfathomably huge profits on wildly overpriced products, though their products are indeed solid.

Anyway, I digress.  Bottom line here: Apple has the mp3 player market in a viselike grip, and it’s going to take more than Microsoft’s paltry attempt to intervene for the market to broaden.  Although it would have certainly helped their advertising campaign if Microsoft’s very own CEO hadn’t “squirted” this little advertisement to the public at large, regarding the Zune’s wireless media transfer capabilities:

“I want to squirt you a picture of my kids. You want to squirt me back a video of your vacation. That’s [an] experience.”

Um…squirt?  Seriously?  Maybe it’s just me, but associating a product with a bodily function (keeping in mind that Zunes are brown) seems like a BAD IDEA (though I haven’t exactly been impressed with Ballmer’s marketing abilities in the past, either: developersdevelopersdevelopers and i-love-this-company).

Not to mention that I’d be worried about catching a cold or herpes or something if I was carrying around an mp3 player running some scaled-down version of Windows.

More later…once I’ve mastered the art of protein analysis in Java.


About Shannon Quinn

Oh hai!
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5 Responses to Zune Failure

  1. eksith says:

    Apple, ironically, is successful because the company functions as a monopoly.

    If it were any more ubiquitous, then it would face the same criticism as Microsoft.

    Apple has its own OS.
    Its own server.
    Its own browser.
    Its own media player.
    Its own productivity and office suites.
    And of course its own hardware.

    The reason the “it just works” matra actually… er… “works”… is because the hardware is so intimately tied to the software. And because everything is in-house. From the design of the product to the drivers, to the OS, to the marketing, everything is from the company. You just can’t beat that type of integration.

    It’s not just about pushing a product, it’s an entire product ecosystem that interacts, is feature rich, and is all about style as well as substance. This is what Microsoft just couldn’t grasp with the Zune.

    They thought they could do the same magic as with the X-Box, forgetting the fact that the X-Box has it’s own mini ecosystem as well. Namely the game and community as well as X-Box live. Again, it’s tight integration and ecosystem as well as a tight product that made it all work.

    Once Open Source alternatives can match this magic, MS will truly have an uphill battle.

  2. magsol says:

    Apple functions as a monopoly, but I think one of its strengths is that it advertises itself in such a way that it’s not obvious – they make themselves out to be a Microsoft competitor, when in fact, they really aren’t in the same market. Consider: what is Apple best known for?

    -OS X

    What is all this stuff? Hardware (with the exception of OS X…but you have to use Apple’s hardware in order to run it, so I contend it falls in the same category). Now: what is Microsoft known for?

    -MS Office

    Everything here (with the notable exception of the Xbox…see my comment about this in my entry where I said they simply got lucky with it) is software – software that can run on just about any platform out there (Macs included!).

    This is why you are precisely correct about the open source market. If that software can start create an encompassing environment like the one Microsoft has established, it’ll be tough times for the software giant.

    Apple won’t really have a hard time of things until their software is decoupled from their hardware…which may never happen. But it also functions as a bit of a limitation, which is why I don’t see Apple growing much beyond where they are now with their current business model.

  3. coffee says:

    I know what Microsoft should do to improve their Zune sales: get someone besides the big, hairy guy with a Zune tattoo to be their marketing front man/woman

  4. magsol says:


    Yeah, associating a product with hairy tattoo-ed individuals never did seem like the optimal marketing strategy. Unless you’re selling tattoos.

  5. Lol…I searched for ‘How to squirt’ and landed here.

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