Fun with Google Trends
The Science of God

Does Zune Rhyme with Looney?

The poorly kept secret is now public. Microsoft confirmed the work they’ve been doing on their iPod killer. (Btw, how come products that are called “xxx killer” before they come out never really kill much of anything; it seems “xxx killer” is only an accurate phrase after a product comes out and dominates the market.)

I’ve looked over what limited details have been released on this product and I’m left scratching my head. WiFi capabilities so I can see your playlists, what music you like and you can see mine as well? That sounds like a solution in search of a problem. Let’s be honest. I don’t care what your favorite songs are and you don’t care what mine are either. Why would I want to look at this stuff just because I’ve entered a hotspot?

I know Microsoft is proud of the market share they’ve carved out with the Xbox, but look at all the billions they’ve spent to get there. Are they likely to take the same loss-leader approach on the portable music player front? I hope not. Putting the Xbox 360 aside, how many pieces of Microsoft hardware can you point to and say, “Gee, that’s a great device”? Hardware isn’t their schtick. Maybe that’s why it’s called Microsoft and not Microhard.

In all seriousness, I really wish they wouldn’t keep trying to barge in and buy their way to market share in industries like this. Sure, Apple’s making a fortune at it. Why not go off and invent the next big thing rather than be perceived as another me-too in this segment though? Is it me or is Microsoft starting to look like that aging veteran athlete who doesn’t know when to retire? Instead, they hang around too long and start to look foolish. Meanwhile, all the young kids are running circles around them. Yeah, I know Microsoft can’t just “retire”, but I truly think there are more exciting and interesting things they could get into other than this zany Zune project.


Marc Orchant

Actually Joe, Microsoft makes a fine range of keyboard and mice. Not as sexy as MP3 players or game consoles but their products are on display everywhere from Wal-Mart to BestBuy, competitively priced with the other leaders in the segment (Logitech in particular) and are well designed and well-built.

Joe Wikert

Hi Marc. Absolutely. In fact, I’ve got a Microsoft mouse in my hand right now and there’s another on my desk at the office. But, let’s not confuse Microsoft’s limited success in the commodity peripheral business and the need for them to leverage a brand in the world of the iPod.

Why is the iPod so successful? I think there are two reasons. First, it’s the ease-of-use and simplicity factor. When most MP3 players were bulky and had ugly controls, the iPod arrived with a sleek form factor. (And don’t forget the power of the wheel.) Second, it had the Apple mystique and “The Nod” factor, as Kathy Sierra so aptly puts it (see Not only were Apple loyalists attracted to the iPod, but a much broader audience was lured in as well. That’s all part of Apple’s DNA though, right? They’re awesome at creating and designing new products.

Microsoft used to have similar mojo, but lost it somewhere along the way. Before anyone criticizes me for being a “Microsoft basher”, you need to know I’ve long been one of their biggest fans. If anything, I feel like that proud parent who knows their child has so much potential but for some reason chooses not to apply themselves.

It’s easy to say that Excel and Word were nothing more than 1-2-3 and WordPerfect knock-off’s. There’s a certain amount of truth to that. But what Microsoft did, back in the ‘90’s, was realize that they could change the playing field by bundling these and other applications together, creating an Office suite that could be sold for less than the sum of the parts. It’s not rocket science, but I’d call that creative and it led to market dominance.

How about Visual Basic? Remember the pre-GUI days of application development? What a mess! OK, they didn’t invent Visual Basic…the credit there goes to Alan Cooper and team, but Microsoft had the foresight to buy the technology and turn it into a blockbuster, much like Bill Gates did originally with DOS.

There’s no reason Microsoft shouldn’t be able to apply that same sort of thinking to software today. Where are they on the software-as-a-service front? Non-existent. What sort of cool new products have they released in the last 5 or 10 years? I can’t think of much.

That’s why I get so disappointed when I see them trying to make a splash in the digital music player sector. That’s not what their brand is all about, which I guess is why they are creating this new brand, Zune. Someone probably thought it sounded hip. The reality is it means nothing and starts with absolutely zero brand equity. The iPod name, on the other hand, meant something from day one. It was a beautiful extension of the Apple family, resonated with the Apple fan base and appealed to the broader, general consumer audience.

I don’t see those connections with Zune. Microsoft is on a path to spend a load of money in an effort to buy share. In fact, that’s the only difference between them launching Zune and me launching Zune: they’ve got billions they can throw at it to chip away at Apple’s lead. I’d rather see them spend that money doing something else.


It is an xxxx killer because there is so much marketing budger behind it. Marketing outweighs technology.

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