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Monday, December 18, 2006

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4 Reasons Zune will Flop
Today the Zune player from Windows will explode from the shelves of 30,000 stores around the country, to what I anticipate will be the collective yawn of a “me-to” device weary public.Will Microsoft spend billions pushing the Zune player on the market? Yes.Will they make a huge splash in the press? Yes.Will they put out a press release within a week and tout how many Zune’s they’ve foisted off on unsuspecting luddites sold? Yes.Will it fail get any real traction and have a minimal impact on the market for digital players? Yes!Now some might say I’m simply playa hatin’ (excuse the pun and the misappropriated vernacular) the on the Zune, so I’ve put together this list of the top 10 reasons the Zune will fail in the market.
1) Who you Gonna Zune with the Chicken or the Egg?The main feature of the Zune, it’s supposed iPod killing feature, is its ability to share music between devices. At today’s press conference and launch event in Seattle, Bill Gates demonstrated this feature by sharing music with John Richards, a morning show host at a community radio station in Seattle (selected for his apparent street creed). Ignoring the DRM for a second, this sounds like a great feature if you imagine all your friend walking around with Zune’s and you can pass music back and forth. Now ask yourself how many of your friends have a Zune? How many are likely to buy a Zune? How many strangers you pass on the street have a Zune? Exactly, in order for the sharing feature to be worth anything lots of people need to have a Zune and in order for lots of people to have a Zune its main feature would have to be worth something. Chicken or egg, you choose.
2) Its still way to expensive!The original price of the Zune was $284, then Apple announced that its newest 30GB iPod model would retail for $249 and MS was thrown into a flutter trying to recalculate just how big of a loss they were willing to take. Apparently the answer had lots of zeros because they came right back with a price that, unfortunately just matched Apple’s. lets say your in the store comparing two products with the same sticker price; on one hand you have a 5th generation Apple product that is a pop culture icon and on the other you have a first generation Microsoft product thats heavier, with a shorter battery life, a weird name and draconian DRM limitations. Which would you buy? Me to. Microsoft made the rookie mistake of thinking price was the same as cost and they didnt give me a reason to choose the Zune over the iPod.
3) Music store pricing is to complexThe Zune Marketplace is where you go to trade in your hard earned cash for Microsoft’s version of Linden dollars, called Zune Points. James Stoup over at Apple Matters has a great dissection of the Zune Marketplace and the hair brained scheme to make the Zune music purchases seems less expensive then iTunes purchases. Pricing shenanigans aside, the additional steps of having to buy “points”, in $5 dollar increments, in order to then go ahead and buy music is likely to be a deal killer for many. Zune marketplace tunes are inexplicably priced at 79 points. So how many songs does that get me? Lets see $5 gets me 400 points, which if I divide by 79 I get… a headache and join the hundreds of other frustrated Zune users and toss the thing out a window.
4) It shares music! Thats bad right?The music industry has spent the last 5 years “educating” people about the evils of file sharing. Lesson 1: sue the technology companies enabling sharing. Lesson 2: sue anyone, from computer-less grandmothers to 12 year old girls, who didnt get the message that if you share music we’ll find you, sue you and shake you down for $50k. Now enter Microsoft with a product whoes main selling feature is the ability to share your music… If I’m grandma and I’ve listened to all the scary stories on CNN of people getting sued by the evil record companies, I would think twice about buying something for little Johnny that shares music and is likely to land him in court. My guess is Grandma wont be buying any Zune’s to put in the stocking under the Menorah this Kwanzaa.

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