I've seen the future and the Zune becomes a hit

I've seen the future and the Zune becomes a hit

Summary: Microsoft launched its second generation Zune amid decent reviews, a good bit of press and even a few personalized devices. But the MP3 game is a marathon not a sprint.


Microsoft launched its second generation Zune amid decent reviews, a good bit of press and even a few personalized devices. But the MP3 game is a marathon not a sprint.


So after perusing the news a few reviews from CNET, Engadget and Gizmodo I just had to find out how this Zune thing played out. I hopped in the time machine and found a bunch of artifacts from the future, circa 2010-2012.

Things got a little suspicious when I saw this press release from the Microsoft folks. Date: Nov. 12, 2010:

REDMOND, Wash. -- Nov. 12, 2010 -- Tomorrow consumers will get their hands on the smallest, sleekest Zune's ever. The updated Zune software and online services will offer gaming, music subscriptions--as if anyone downloads anything any more--and the latest in surface and cerebral interfacing technology. More than 2 million Zune's have been preordered on Zune.net.

"Tomorrow brings our fifth generation Zune and consumers are lining up outside the Zune stores to get their hands on the No. 1 MP3 player in the market," said Microsoft CEO J Allard. "The personal is now more personal than ever as we anticipate your entertainment needs through our cerebral interfacing software."

Boy after reading that statement I was taken back by a few things. First, the Zune actually got some momentum. And then there's the CEO quote. What happened to Ballmer? And how the hell did Microsoft get a CEO who not only doesn't have a first name, but is too cool to even use a period after the initial. Talk about Wow!

So I fished a little more. And found this Wharton case study on the MP3 wars. The date: Feb. 20, 2011. Here are a few choice excerpts:

In many respects, Microsoft's Zune playbook followed other products throughout the company's history. At first, the product is lacking and far from the market leader. The second generation shows improvement with the third gaining market acceptance. However, the Zune's big breakthrough came courtesy of Apple, which bet entirely on music and video downloads. The company's reluctance to offer a subscription service turned consumers away from the iPod. Meanwhile, Department of Justice proceeding against the iPod/iTunes link hampered decision making at Apple.

Ok, so music subscriptions helped turn the tide. But how did Microsoft actually get this consumer thing down? Turns out that ditching brown as a Zune color was only the beginning. Luckily I found this passage in the case study.

After Google took away much of Microsoft's Office cash cow, the software giant doubled down on its consumer businesses. The company was still large, but management became decentralized into small teams. In many respects, Microsoft became an incubator for new businesses. The Zune was one of the early efforts. Once this model took off for Microsoft it was clear that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was no longer needed. He retired to lead a dance troop. Microsoft named J Allard CEO in January 2010. Allard became the first CEO in U.S. history without a first name.

Well that explains a lot. I always thought Ballmer's calling was dance anyway. Nevertheless, I was still skeptical about the Zune becoming such a hit--until I found this press release from NPD. Date: April 20, 2012.

Port Washington, NY, April 20, 2012 -- According to a new report from the NPD Group, a leading consumer and retail information company, sales of Microsoft's Zune are outpacing Apple's iPod by a 5 to 1 margin.

The latest sales data indicate that the Zune has a 40 percent market share and the iPod commands 30 percent. This is the first quarter where the Zune has led the iPod in market share.

I know. I know. This is fiction. Dignan has spent too much time at the pub (again). It is quite hard to believe. But I've seen the future and the Zune turns out a helluva lot better than you thought it would.

Topics: Hardware, Microsoft, Mobility

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  • I believe it

    After all, with portable music players heading for commodity status (non-DRM sales already outpace DRM sales 4:1 according to some reports) there's no reason why a well-funded outfit like MS couldn't undercut the others in the business.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • RE: I've seen the future and the Zune becomes a hit

    Subscription music on an MP3 player...isn't that like
    SIRIUS business (apologies for the pathetic pun)?

    Hey, there was another article too - the one where
    Microsoft bought out the DOJ, then used its power for the
    benefit <coughs> of the general public <coughs>...
  • By 2015

    MP3 players will have no connectivity, and so no subscription service.

    Why not? Simple, they come with 100TB storage with every track ever recorded pre-installed. In a unique synergy of low cost electronics and recylcing laws, people can easily afford to keep them for only a couple of weeks before swapping for a new model, updated with the latest beats.
    • Wow

      I want some property in your future world.

      Utopia is just up my alley. :)
  • RE: I've seen the future and the Zune becomes a hit

    Wasn't this article due out on April 1?
  • After he had dethroned Ballmer

    After he had dethroned Ballmer, Jobs sent J Allard a unique laser iPod engraved with the caption "iSpankedTheMonkey".
  • Coincidentally...

    The Zune has dropped in price again on the bargain bin internet site: Woot.com

    $84 and it's still not selling.

    I have nothing against the Zune, it seems like a decent enough player, but I have yet to see anyone using one and if I mention it, nobody seems to have even heard of it.
    • I've seen one in action

      It's a gen 1.

      It's actually pretty nifty. One of the things that is pretty cool about it is that it can be hooked up to the big screen TV, which is pretty nice...especially from a sound-system perspective.

      It's a pretty nice device, really. And it doesn't do a lot of what the gen 2 devices do.

      They may gain some of the market with this version. But I am not as optimistic as Larry is, I'm afraid. Who would rebuy all their music just to switch mp3 player brands? Now, if iTunes can suddenly be played on a Zune...well that may be a different story altogether.
      • I have one

        it is a gen 1, and the device is quite nice.

        Someone at MS, however, should get whacked in the head with a 2x4 for making me use the Zune software.

        And as long as you've been smart enough to not buy crippled files (like from iTunes), you can switch MP3 players as often as you like.
        • Are you planning on getting a gen 2?

          Just curious.
          • Not at the moment

            MS was nice enough to update the firmware, so I get the benefits for free.

            Also, I'm not that demanding a user when it comes to MP3 players. I usually hit 'shuffle all' and leave it at that.

            The mobile video is nice for the kids, but I don't use it often (at least not yet)
      • Yeah, but...you are the ONLY one that has seen it in public!

        I have YET to see a single ZUNE in California. Maybe I need to hang around Republican voters more?

        ZUNE = Military cell mates ?
        • I have yet to see an iPhone, myself

          And I live in a heavily Democratic state! Seriouslly, I have seen the Zune, yet not a single iPhone.

          Could it be we are just not looking?
          • I've seen one Jesus Phone...

            ...And it wasn't that impressive. One of my clients drank too much of the kool aid and rushed out to get himself one.

            Two months later - he's planning on selling it. Why? Because it doesn't suit his needs. You can't edit documents and send them back. BIG, BIG negative there.
          • Can't please everyone and luckily Apple doesn't need to:P

            Nor do I think they care to. Everyone is a strange and
            well sort of ugly pool. You get some odd ducks
            swimming in the everyone pond. So it's best to focus on
            those whom you can please and leave everyone to
            someone else:P Jack all trades master of none. Yeah
            that guy. As I understand it the iPhone has an
            increadible "customer satisfaction" standing as of this
            moment in time but it's not 100%...still that would be
            cool but not expected.

            Pagan jim
          • Well the iPhone has been out for a few months now.

            What since late June? The Zune has been out for what
            over a year or more? i forget it's introduction date.
            They both have sold what over a million. I don't know
            the actual Zune numbers but I figure by now it must be
            over a million the iPhone did that in what a couple
            months? Still I have yet to see either a Zune or iPhone
            and I live in upstate NY so it's hardly that surprising.
            Not a lot of money here and well the Zune is not a
            sreaming success now is it?

            Pagan jim
    • Well, it's understandable

      It's the brown one. Now [i]that[/i] was a mistake.
      Though I have seen the 30 Gig iPod at a couple of sites (99 to 109), probally not selling all that well either as the new models are being rolled out.
      • Right, maybe one particular model..

        But I haven't seen anybody anywhere with any Zune period. Now I know some people have bought them, but outside of the geeky tech crowd I don't think most people even know what a Zune is.

        That doesn't mean it's a terrible product, just doesn't seem to be that noticable.
  • don't drink and write!

    [i] Dignan has spent too much time at the pub (again). [/i]
    did M$ picked up the tab there? ;)
    Linux Geek
    • You should practice what you preach. (nt)