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.