Opinion: Why Microsoft’s Zune scares Apple to the core
Good reasons why the iPod can be unseated as the media player powerhouse are numerous. Why Microsoft shills insist on ignoring these good reasons poses as a mystery. After all, Microsoft pays these people to generate the good publicity that unbiased technical reviews of Microsoft products rarely do. So, is it the case that Microsoft is stupid enough to hire stupid shills, or is it that their products are so crappy that even the most obedient shills find nothing good to say about them. Let’s parse the above article to demonstrate the point.
Mike Elgan is clearly a Microsoft shill. That’s why Cnet, to its credit, classifies Elgan’s rants as opinion. (Contrast this with the asinine Fox “News” attempts to mask propaganda as news.) What is strange is that he proceeds to bash the company he is paid to promote.
Let’s take his first point about Zune’s features.
30GB hard drive, peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connectivity, a 3-in. screen (320-by-240-pixel QVGA viewable in either portrait or landscape mode), an FM tuner that will display song information from stations that broadcast a Radio Broadcast Data Standards (RBDS)
How many people will watch movies on their Zune? Not many. So, the better screen is simply an increased loss for Microsoft. Wi-Fi connectivity? As if the RIAA would ever allow people to swap music anywhere, anytime. This is almost certainly a useless feature that only serves to allow Microsoft to say that they offer features that Apple doesn’t. It’s like driving a Ferrari in LA. Sure, you got all those horses, but you’ll never go faster than the 25 mph traffic. When the RIAA is choking its customers every which way it can, what use will a wi-fi connection be? So, all of Zune’s nifty features are for all intents and purposes worthless. They add no value to the product.
The radio tuner is nice, but it’s probably fair to say that 99% of people who spend hundreds of dollars on a media player do so to avoid the garbage on commercial radio. So, this is not a significant selling point.
The second point is rather bizarre
Microsoft will make the movement of media between Windows, Soapbox and the Zune natural and seamless. The Zune interface is just like a miniature version of the Windows Media Center user interface and is very similar to some elements of Vista.
Again, Microsoft can make it as seamless as the trade associations will allow. And, who are the people who find the Windows Media Center–indeed, any Windows Media or Microsoft–user interface easy to use? Microsoft is the master of creating hopelessly complicated GUIs. Put iTunes next to WMP and see which one is easier to use. So, again, these are hardly selling points for the Zune.
Who cares if Microsoft is creating a perfect “media storm” and leveraging its Xbox? iPod and iTunes Music Store already offer more capabilities than the initial Zune package will. Apple is selling iPods to everyone from college students to morons like George W Bush. It’s hard to imagine that a bunch of Xbox geeks will translate into a marketing bonanza for Microsoft.
The next point is utterly perplexing.
The rise of social networks like MySpace.com and viral Web 2.0 sites like that of YouTube Inc. have transformed the expectations of young people about sharing and using media. In the context of these trends, Apple is old school. But the Zune, with its peer-to-peer wireless file sharing, is both social and viral.
Again, given Microsoft’s history of ripping its industry partners off, why would the RIAA, MPAA, and other industry groups allow people to swap music with the Zune? But, fine, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that they do decide to allow Microsoft to allow users to annihilate the profits on digital music sales. Do any studies exist that say that people are dying to do this? It’s easy to swap music with friends, but I have not done so with any. I have had opportunities to acquire tens of gigabytes of music from friends, but it’s too much of a pain. My own library is already too big. The occasional teaser from a friend is usually enough. Will this be viral? Who knows? There are plenty of viral business models that fall short of contagion, let alone a pandemic.
Elgan next contends that Zune “may offer more programming.” Well, it may, but how stupid would entertainment companies be to limit distribution to one channel? Furthermore, if Apple can convince its customers to pay a higher price for the programming and thus deliver a higher profit to the content providers, why would they choose to go with Microsoft? This notion that content providers will willingly limit themselves to one distribution channel is absurd. Once digital distribution is accepted, programmers will distribute their content through many outlets, including Zune Marketplace and Apple iTMS. This is not an advantage for either company. It’s the direction the world is going in. The market is big, and there will be room for many players, with Apple, Microsoft, Real and Wal-Mart as the most prominent players.
Elgan’s next points simply border on stupidity.
4. Zune’s screen is better for movies.
Apple’s tiny screen is so high-quality that people are willing to watch full-length movies on it.The Zune’s screen is just as good as the iPod’s, but larger. It’s so large it must be turned sideways for viewing in “landscape mode.” This additional screen real estate makes Zune vastly superior for watching movies and TV shows
5. Zune is actually pretty cool.
The Zune is unlike any product Microsoft has ever shipped. It’s actually very nicely designed, surprisingly minimalist and (dare I say it?) “cool.”
We have no idea how many people will use the small screen to watch movies or use the devices to watch on their TVs. So, why on earth would a better screen matter? Furthermore, the Zune does not exist yet. So, how could it be cool? It took the iPod 3 years of cultivation among college students to acquire the cool status. Why on earth would the Zune achieve it overnight?
The emphasis on design makes it clear that Microsoft is copying (as usual) the iPod. Hence, the question arises: will the replica supplant the original? What Microsoft shills–indeed, Microsoft the corporation–fail to understand is that Microsoft replicas of successful products rarely make for successful ventures anymore. Microsoft is trying to make a a better iPod, not a better product. This is why the Zune will not kill the iPod. It is not an original product. It does not seek to address needs that the iPod does not fulfill. Ultimately, this is why Microsoft is a lousy company. The emphasis is always on imitation, not innovation. Apple is most likely flattered by this imitation, not frightened by it. If you don’t believe me, read this guy, or this guy
And, maybe that’s why Microsoft shills are never convincing: Microsoft’s entire product line is unimpressive.