Microsoft takes on the iPod again, fails again

Microsoft takes on the iPod again, fails again

Summary: Microsoft has revamped the Zune line of portable digital media players and is mounting yet another assault on Apple's iPod. Once again, this will fail because Microsoft is again a good arm's reach away from being sexy enough to make Apple sweat.

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Microsoft has revamped the Zune line of portable digital media players and is mounting yet another assault on Apple's iPod. Once again, this will fail because Microsoft is again a good arm's reach away from being sexy enough to make Apple sweat.

Microsoft takes on the iPod again, fails againThe Zune 2.0 is what the Zune 1.0 should have beenI know that I should, in the interests of fairness at least, be rooting for the Zune because it's the underdog of portable media players, but I just can't do it. The problem is that the entire Zune range is just boring. I just can't find a single thing to get excited about. The entire specification, apart from the price, screams mediocrity. Even the built-in FM tuner fails to get me animated because the only time I listen to the radio is when I'm in the car, and I've got an FM tuner there. If it had an FM transmitter, that would have been interesting, but it doesn't. The Zune 2.0 is what the Zune 1.0 should have been.

[poll id=181]

The WiFi sync is nothing short of a gimmick, and this whole issue of the syncing happening while the Zune is in a dock just tells me that WiFi is a big power hog. The wireless sharing feature is worse that a gimmick and even if I was interested in sharing music with others, I don't know anyone with a Zune to share songs with. Pointless, utterly pointless. This kind of feature could have waited until the Zune had achieved a significant user base. As for recorded TV on the go ... a lot depends on how smoothly this all works. We'll have to wait and see.

Where are the really cool features? Where's the web browse? Where's the email client? Where's the Outlook integration? The Zune could be so much more, and could incorporate features that would put some pressure on Apple.

I still think that your money is better spent on an iPod.

Thoughts?

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Microsoft, Mobility, Networking, Wi-Fi

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94 comments
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  • I find it hard ....

    ... to get excited about any of these offerings. Part of that is dues to the fact that the barrier is so low in my case that all these devices are (for me) massively over-spec and therefore massively overpriced.

    All I need is an MP3 player that I can copy a few classical or rock albums on to. I got one in my local supermarket for ?4.97 (about $10). I get 10 to 12 CDs at a time on it.

    I'm sure that there are many like me to whom these devices are just OTT. I suspect that the iPod has the mind share of those who want something fancy and powerful and remainder of the market is composed of people like me whose needs are very simple.

    Where does the Zune fit in? Apple has the premium market and the cheapie MP3 players have the rest.

    There is no home for a Zune.
    bportlock
    • Ditto

      I think you've hit the nail on the head.
      dave.leigh@...
    • You have a point but

      I'm certain that you are accurate in your assumption that these products are overkill for many. The thing is though, prior to the release of the iPod, the market was saturated with devices just as the one you described that fit your needs. I would go further and speculate that it was because of higher capacity devices like the iPod that you are able to get the low capacity device you describe for the prices you mention. Certainly there are numerous consumers that want the simplicity that you speak of however, 110 million iPods sold in 6 years suggest that the market for devices with higher capacity and multiple features such as the iPod and the Zune is robust.
      The problem for MS with the Zune (at this time) is once again, they are following instead of leading. Apple's intrenched leadership in this category is going to be difficult for MS as long as they continue to attempt to duplicate Apple's existing models, while Apple continues to move the goal post.
      Darryl365
      • You are reinforcing my point

        We are not in disagreement. In you response you say that the iPod split the market into those who want "everything" and those with simpler needs. I agree.

        It also means there is no middle for Zune to exploit.
        bportlock
        • reasonable acknowledgement

          That makes sense. I agree that the market is between those that want less those that want it all in a music.

          I don't MS care to find a middle ground though. That would mean that they are creating a market in the category. Something they never do.
          This fact reinforces my position that they will constantly trail Apple and the iPod as long as they attempt to duplicate with mediocrity or good enough products, which has always been their method.
          I realize that what I'm saying in this last paragraph deviates from the point you're making. It was my attempt in my original post to address the differences that we agree on but, also address the premise of the article which suggest that MS has failed in it's attempt to compete with the iPod.
          Darryl365
      • MS has always followed instead of leading.

        I agree with you both 100%.. Apple has the high end and they have always been the company that has always led with innovations in both the PC and Digital Music player industry. Microsoft coppied the GUI from Apple and they coppied the mouse which Apple introduced to the PC, The coppied Netscape on web browsers, they coppied other office program to come up with MS office, they coppied Apple OS X 10.2 to come up with Vista, They, and they are copping Apple yet again on the mp3 players.

        The only thing Microsponge has ever done that was smart (which led to their rise) was to open source their Windows Operating System and turn all their consumers into the largest group of ignorant beta testers the world will ever see. But people are finally becoming savy to all that.. Huge corporations are switching to RedHat or Linux or Apple OS X (which is now a UNIX OS as well).

        And I agree that there is a need for cheep low end mp3 players. I jog with my shuffle in good weather, but I use a 20.00 model that I bought at Longs drugs when I jog in the rain. (I'm not about to throw away a 100 bucks to water damage, but I still want to hear my favorite music.

        And anyone who claims that the Zune has better software and that itunes and their ipod software was difficult or slow is smoking crack... I've installed Zune software for 2 friends who couldn't figure it out.. that stuff was total junk.... they ended up returning their hunka junka Zunes and getting ipods.

        Microsoft needs to open their eyes and see where they are heading and go there quietly... Cut staff, focus on office and outlook and accept vista for what it is.. a huge flop that will go down in history as being worse than Microsoft Bob (where the obnoxious animated paper clip came from)and Windows ME (both in the top 10 of PC Word's worst tech products of all time). The redmond reign is over.

        Seriously Microsoft... You lack vision, and thanks to the information age, we are all able to see that you are never going to be more than a johnny come lately to any market. Consumers want innovation, not duplication of someone elses ideas and foresight. You guys have been doing nothing but looking ridiculous and the embarassment is just plain painful to watch. You can't show me the WOW, so show me the bow and take one, cut losses, and go gracefully into the night.
        i8thecat
        • MS certainly a follower but

          ..... 1 must acknowledge what MS has brought to the market place.
          Though I prefer Apple products, I must acknowledge that MS role in the world of technology has been huge and I think we as consumer have had advancements realized that may not have occurred had we depended solely on Apple to bring them to us.
          Allow me to elaborate: I agree that MS doesn't develop markets, usually they join existing markets with "good enough" products and use their position in the industry to catch up and eventually dominate. This has always been their MO. However, the one thing the did do, that gave them the monopoly they enjoy was license their OS and setting guidelines allowing the entire industry to flourish. The open approach (Lets not mistake lisencing with open source as you suggested in your post. Those are 2 completely different things.) allowed software and hardware developers to flourish. Companies of all sizes. Many of them eventually got their butts kicked by MS in some way but, we as consumers have benefitted from all of that development.
          Apple propriatary approach would not have allowed for the same type of industry growth.
          We now have 2 results from the different approaches.
          MS's success is realized from their open approach to lisencing is also the reason for the challenges they face with the need to support thousands of hardware and software combinations. (As well as not being a company that attempt to innovate or come up with many of their own technological ideas.Not to mention being a primary target for malicious code writer because of easily found exploits and market dominance.)
          Apple stubborness with the desire to remain propriatary relegated them to the minute market share they have today. However that approach has also afforded them the ability to better control the entire user experience which is starting to become an advantage as the Market place has evolved past propellar heads like you, me and other folks who take the time to respond to articles like this. Apple products tend to behave more like an appliance than the competitions does.
          At the same time, few of the experiences Apple has delivered were created by Apple. Most technologies that are attributed to Apple were developed elsewhere. Apple simple has a knack for combining technologies and delivering a user experience not yet realized in the market place. This is where Apples' innovation lies. They are quite good at considering user experience from an engineering perspective an not the other way around.
          What always gets me is the 2 camps supporting either side. Both side accusing the other of being fanboys or zealots or cultist when the thing to remember is that your support of these corporations are merely exploits to releave you of your money. All corporations exist for this very reason. The holy war fought on the ground is absurd when you consider that we as consumer benefit more so as long as competition remains strong.
          I don't really understand the need for all the battle and sometimes believe that I may be a rarity among the geek set.
          I can respect the passion that fans have for their platform of choice. i share the passion but sometimes reading the post on all my favorite tech sites make me think i should find another hobby where people are more rational.
          Darryl365
          • Yadayadayada

            Bravo for flogging your horse to an early grave.

            But please lay off the crack! The Zune is a vain attempt to achieve what *someone else* has already well nigh perfected.

            Enough said.
            thx-1138_
          • you're a bit late 2 conversation

            your comments adds nothing to the exchange being had and you may consider putting down pipe as well.

            If you had considered the content of the exchange, instead if attempting to be a smart ass, you'd find that MS duplication is what spurred the exchange.
            It's called a conversation genius.
            Darryl365
          • Excuse Me!

            That's precious coming from a guy who's beating his drum so hard (amongst other things) that his knuckles are bleeding whilst perched on his sanctimonious soapbox! At any rate, your 'rants' which span some 3 posts can only mean one of two things (or both now that i think of it):

            (1) You're a freelance journalist seeking recognition for your tedious and *clearly talentless* writing

            or

            (2) You simply like the sound of your own voice

            The one thing your posts *don't do* is improve the argument for a device such as the Zune - as you sadly believe them to. If you were *any where near* being unbiased you would have asked and discussed why MS has waited 'years' before attempting to compete against the Apple range of MP3/multi-media devices.

            Your annoyance at my comment only reinforces that you just can't handle the truth.

            Get a grip of reality; get a coffee; take your meds; whatever, but for pete's sake above all go back to journalism school - because quite frankly pal your writing stinks. Next time you decide to start poking the borax at a *legitimate journalist*, think long and hard before you put your obviously convoluted ideas across in a public forum.

            Have you got the picture now wiseguy? Are we finished with this or do you *gotta open your big trap again* and get the last word in?
            thx-1138_
        • speaking of

          smoking crack. <br><br>
          <i>The only thing Microsponge has ever done that was smart (which led to their rise) was to open source their Windows Operating System and turn all their consumers into the largest group of ignorant beta testers the world will ever see. But people are finally becoming savy to all that.. Huge corporations are switching to RedHat or Linux or Apple OS X (which is now a UNIX OS as well).
          </i><br><br>
          you've gotta be smoking something. Microsoft open sources Windows? really? Which "huge" corporations are you referring to? Unix and Linux have always had a stronghold in the server room on the internet and large corporation server rooms. The only thing new there is the amount of share Windows Server 2003 has Taken from it. <br>
          And according to you companies are switch to RedHat or Linux. Hmmm, what OS kernel does Red Hat use? I guess i've never heard of it if it's not linux. <br>
          Thanks for that plethora of wisdom. I'll be sure to take note.
          xuniL_z
    • RE: I find it hard ....

      It's facinating to me that the "war" boils down to iPod v. Zune. We all know that the market existed before either device was released. It's just a bit peculiar to me that all of the other companies combined can't (or won't) attempt to match the marketing effort.

      In the end, they basically all play music. RCA, SanDisk and others have video players and many of the units are less expensive....they just aren't as sexy, well-known or advertised as well as an iPod. My wife has a 2G Nano....I use a Creative MuVo and I'm happy. Why fight over it?
      nwoodson@...
  • Do you know what an MP3 player is?

    Come on Adrian, give me a break:

    "Where are the really cool features? Where???s the web browse? Where???s the email client? Where???s the Outlook integration? The Zune could be so much more, and could incorporate features that would put some pressure on Apple."

    So you want the Zune to be a PDA? Or maybe a Blackberry? It's a *music player*, a glorified Walkman for goodness sake.

    I just don't get the whole music player thing. So you can store 10,000 songs or whatever. Big deal.

    Be it iPod or Zune or Zen or Gobbledygoop they just play music.

    Cue the flame war du jour. Sigh.
    wolf_z
    • If all you want is something to carry and play music

      there are plenty of cheaper solutions that do the job just fine, and they don't come in snot green or raw wound red...
      MarcB_z
    • Don't get the music player thing?

      Neither did I till I watched how a couple of college kids used theirs. For them this isn't a glorified walkman that they use when commuting or jogging or whatever. This is their total music library and delivery system.

      No CDs. Downloads to their laptops only. If they want a larger "stereo" then the only input device needed is an iPod port. Mostly the little JBL and Bose devices are plenty for that.

      What these kids want (and will eventually get) is their total communication and entertainment system in a package that will fit in their pocket. Including all their content. Add-ons for bigger sound, larger screen etc. is fine but the core system is very close to an iPhone with about a dozen TB of storage.
      slopoke
    • If that is all you want, then Apple is ...

      ... is quite happy to let you go elsewhere. Microsoft is not. And that is the problem. Apple wants a specific piece of the pie. MS wants the whole pie.
      M Wagner
  • RE: Microsoft takes on the iPod again, fails again

    I think you suck!!!! The only reason you think that is cuz the Ipod has been out so much longer! And since its been out why longer than the Zune, most people have an Ipod and are not going to go out and bye a Zune. The fact is I dont need to get on the damn computer every min of my life or look at myspace! I have better things to do with my life! I love music! And I love the Zune! My boyfriend had an Ipod and hated it and Itunes. Its too hard the get all you music on there and takes why too long!! Zune and all its softwhere takes a crap on Ipod!!!!! If you dont have an MP3, take a chance on Zune! You might just love it!
    WhittyBaby
    • Huh?

      [b]And I love the Zune! My boyfriend had an Ipod and hated it and Itunes. Its too hard the get all you music on there and takes why too long!! Zune and all its softwhere takes a crap on Ipod!!!!![/b]

      So how do you get your music on Zune's Market Place? Oh I get it you pay a monthly rental fee for subscription music.
      dave95.
    • You're kidding, right?

      My son just bought a Zune a month or so ago. It took almost an HOUR just to load the software onto Windows XP to get this thing to be able to sync up. I use an iPod Mini. It syncs flawlessly, and iTunes installs very quickly. Your post is not reasonable. And I say this as one who is reading this article because I want to learn about the new Zune to see what it offers. If it is price competitive and up to snuff on specs, I'd buy it, if for no other reason than to use the sync feature along with my son's Zune. I'm not locked into the iPod format, but I do believe in honest posts.
      JackG058
      • They Have to be Kidding

        My son was given a Zune for his birthday. The software was SIMPLE to install, and the sync worked great. In fact I had a movie in MY VIDEOS that I recorded on my AIW, and it smashed it flat and moved it to the Zune. He ended up pulling about 30-40 albums and the movie and still had 25Gb free. He never really used his Zen, but takes his Zune most of the time. He watches or listens to it a lot, and won't let me 'borrow' it. It's a nice STURDY clean design and most of all it SOUNDS GREAT! I'd recommend it (and have) to anyone in the market.
        Max_in_OH