Thursday, October 05, 2006

Can Zune Do it?

In The Hive today, a member posed a question on the chances of Zune.

The following is my answer to the question.

Good question.

However, it is customary to attribute the origins of quotes to their authors, in this case, Andrew Orlowski in The Register here.

Back to it, and these are off the cuff:

• Soviet-style industrial design? How?

o Hardware: I don’t see many degrees of separation from any of the iPods. Actually, the screen is larger and better. This is an initial product building on the best aspects of the market leader, the iPod, whose design has revealed a form factor that is acceptable. While I hated the design initially, I realized, after giving it more thought, that familiarity and/or conformity with the market leader is required for the initial launch of the project. It would have been easy for Zune to be an esoteric design a la the Bang & Olufsen MP3 player, but why? Such a design, while eliciting a lot of oohs and aahs from the public would have meant death in the retail market for a heretofore-unknown entrant in that space. This design is right in that regards for an initial device. As the Zune becomes more of a force, then more exotic designs can be delivered. A good example is the Xbox->Xbox 360 evolution.

o Software: navigation, from what I can ascertain from pictures released is much more intuitive. Moreover, I own three iPods.

• “…and surely not from gimmicks such as disappearing, time-bombed songs. Or the fact it brings another incompatible DRM scheme to the public…” There isn’t a new DRM platform on the Zune, period. The songs do not disappear. Read here.

• “….while it may do more than the iPod, unless it does the basics very well or better, it'll suffer the same fate as Microsoft's phones.” If you’re familiar with Microsoft’s platform strategy, you would know that these products, while appealing to gadget-heads primarily, are used as reference designs to seed a market. When direction, and price points, have been established, Microsoft correctly exits the space so those who display better capabilities in that space get to continue along the lines they (Microsoft) drew with their reference designs.

Furthermore, Zune is not just a product, it is a platform. The seed about to be sown with this initial product is sure to germinate as a result of the weight of responsibility behind it: making sure Microsoft does not cede the PMC space to Apple, which, do doubt, would like to use the iPod/iTunes platform as an entrepoint into the digital home.

Have no fear – actually, as AppleFan, have a lot of fear- Microsoft has entered the market with a hardware/software/services solution and is here to stay!

$0.02 USD.

Finally, this is a shout out to The Beekeeper that we do need hands-on experience with the products in order to debunk myths and concerns of the public on forthcoming products. I also nominate myself.

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