Skip to comments.Zune Beats iPod: How Apple Can Learn from Microsoft’s Success
Posted on 11/19/2006 12:25:48 AM PST by Swordmaker
Zune launched this week and, as predicted, it easily jumped to the number one spot in one of the most critical market metrics. How can this happen? How can a company known for practices that should dominate this metric fall so far behind its Redmond rival?
Sometimes its about focus and commitment and a never ending desire to maximize critical metrics like third party studies. Sometimes it about executive integrity and the ability to present a product in the most favorable light in the face of all information to the contrary to overcome all objections in getting a product to market that can get a win in this way. And sometimes it is about being so focused on what executive management wants to see that everything else is blocked out.
Zune Wins iPod Loses
Zune generated more negative press during its launch than any iPod, including the first crippled Shuffle, has ever done. It got so bad earlier this week that folks are getting excited about the fact that it wouldnt even work with Vista right now even though Vista is only in limited corporate release to customers who would avoid anything like Zune (or iTunes) like the plague.
If reports are correct Zune also has more unsold inventory sitting in stores than Apple has ever had; customers evidently didnt understand that Brown was cool. Im guessing they didnt see the survey saying that Brown was the hot new color.
Zune goes down in history as being the latest in a string of products from Microsoft that fail to meet market expectations, suggesting a competence in failure that is unmatched in the technology segment. Recall Mira the wireless display, or WebTV, or the Microsoft Phone, the Microsoft USB Speakers, and their Bluetooth Keyboards and Mice. Some did so poorly they are the stuff of legend and Apple simply cant seem to compete but they could learn to.
How Apple Could Learn to Succeed at Failure
To have this kind of success at failure you have to work at it, you cant just walk in and screw up to this level it takes concerted effort.
Rule 1: Avoid what you dont want to do. For Zune Microsoft did a really nice job on the software, channel, and revenue model. They didnt want to really focus on the hardware and this created a situation where the product could get funded (looked really good on paper) but actually had no chance to be successful in a market that was hardware focused.
Rule 2: Do CYA analysis. Executives like to see numbers and generally wont fund a project that looks like it will fail so your strategy has to include studies that support the possibility of success. This is actually easier than you think because most executives have not studied this area and dont know the questions to ask. Some nice bar and pie charts typically do the trick and you can always do the emperor has no clothes thing and suggest that their smart peers understand the study implying that only stupid people would question it.
Rule 3: Play the Demographic card. Executives in most firms dont understand kids, hell kids dont often understand kids, and simply saying that kids do stupid things (like wearing their pants below their butts) means that they will also buy stupid things. Adults seem to connect disconnected things to each other easily so draw parallels between an unattractive products to unattractive dressing behavior.
Rule 4: Dont Listen. For most of the products listed, there were large numbers of people who said, early on, that they wouldnt work, were unfinished, or otherwise unappealing to the current market. In a way they are just validating your success at failing so why listen to them? Use their comments as private validation that your strategy to fail spectacularly is on schedule and well down its chosen path.
Where Apple Gets it Wrong
For some reason Steve Jobs and his team simply doesnt get this. They tend to block marginal products and spend whatever time is necessary to create music players that people want to buy in large numbers. There are signs they are learning though. The first Shuffle, the ROKR, their handling of the RSS problem. These are things that indicate what may be a growing trend to eventually dominate Microsoft in their quest to create spectacular products that go down in the record books as legendary disasters.
Apple isnt there yet but if they work at it really hard I think they can find a way, some day, to release a product with the same success as Zune. I just hope Im not around to see it.
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No doubt Microsoft was dismayed that people weren't rioting in the streets for Zunes, like they were for Sony Playstations. There were no lines of people camped out for days in front of BestBuy to get a Zune. Zune is the biggest Microsoft flop since "Bob".
The Zune is the personal digital music player market's equivalent of the Lada Riva. Produced by an enormous corporation, lots of features on paper, but the product completely misses the point, the features don't work, and the thing tanks horribly. (You can also substitute "Yugo" for "Lada".)
Evidently, the Zune software isn't any good either:
I know my kids won't have one. They are completely contemptuous of the Zune. Even the name....
How much did Microsoft pay for this article?
And isn't it true that Zune doesn't work w/ Vista?
(Snicker - I think I'll keep my ipod)
Yes, life isn't fair, but still.
And what's mp3 for, anyway, multi-something?
If they did . . .
Re-read it :-)
Funny article. Almost sad people are missing the sarcasm. I still like my shuffle, though - it's great to take when I go hiking. My 60 gig ipod feels like a brick in comparison.
Well, when your supposed hot new product that everyone has to have won't even work with the next-generation OS you're now rolling out onto the shelves, I'd say you have a bit of a problem.
Another fine effort by Microsuck.
Bad, KItty, bad. Do not post before coffee :-)
Where Microsoft screwed up was in abandoning their existing, semi-open DRM. If they had not done that, I would have gladly tossed my 3G iPod in the trash and switched. I am really tired of closed DRM schemes that prevent me from using my content on more than one device. However, I suspect the reasons behind that were more to do with the fact that PlaysForSure was cracked recently and concerns about being able to sign up the record labels.
The truth is, Apple has a virtual monopoly on this market now, and as long as there isn't a serious competitor they really have little motivation to advance the platform. How long will Apple sit on the large screen version of the iPod?
Microsoft hasn't proven anything, since the Zune is a repackaged Toshiba GigaBeat S - only slight modifications.
1. Large screen - well, that hasn't helped the GigaBeat S, since it has failed to make a dent in the iPod's sales. And a large screen means a bigger device, which people have emphatically demonstrated that they do not want.
2. Some people have been very vocal about wanting the FM tuner, but Apple keeps surveying their customers and a tuner isn't high on the list of what their actual customers want.
3. Um, the buggy screaming pig on Windows? Other than the OS itself? And the Zune software appears to have even *more* problems than that. iTunes/Windows looks like a shining example of reliability compared to that.
It's short for MPegaudio layer 3. MPEG is short for "Moving Pictures Experts Group."
As for the media, Apple has 75%+ of the digital audio player market. Microsoft is in the uncomfortable position of trying to break into a market dominated by someone else, who has learned from the screwings that they have received from M$ in the past. That makes for an interesting story - especially given the fact that the iPod's popularity has killed off at *least* three good-sized companies who were competing with it (and failing).
And they'll sit on the large screen version as long as it takes them to get the new hybrid touchscreen right. Unlike MS and the entire satellite industry around Windows, Apple isn't willing to ship something that's half-baked out the door because "market experts" demand that they do it.
They're taking their time and they're doing it right.
We have at least one FReeper that works on the iPod for Apple doing software (might be a company contracting with Apple). He's explained it a number of times.
You obviously never had to support that POS.
No, I think I was about 9 when it was released. Maybe that's why I loved it... ;-P
It should also be noted that while the screen is physically slightly bigger than the iPod's, it contains the exact same number of pixels. So you're not getting any extra screen real estate, and you also get the added benefit of having most of your videos stretched out of proportion. Go Microsoft!
Actually, what I'd like to see is an AM tuner. I think it's pretty self-evident that the reason most people carry around MP3 players is to avoid generic FM radio in the first place; besides, if you want to listen to the radio, you can do that with a Walkman that costs $15 and has the tuner built into the headphones. But at least an AM tuner would let me quickly switch over and get a talk radio fix if I felt the need.
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I read that whole thing and the Zune -- that really really really is a problem.
It should also be noted that while the screen is physically slightly bigger than the iPod's, it contains the exact same number of pixels. So you're not getting any extra screen real estate, and you also get the added benefit of having most of your videos stretched out of proportion.It's the size not the resolution that is important because the video content isn't able to take advantage of any higher resolution. If what you said is true, people would watch standard (not HD) TV on iPod-sized devices. Go Apple Fanboys!
They seem to be. It might not be sarcasm, though, but irony.
I love the Shuffle, it's just what I need, no more, no less.
Well, it makes zero difference to me which device wins out. With that said, the iPod has dominated for years. Just because the Zune realizes extremely short-term market success in the niche crowd of people who must have something before everyone else does not make it a market winner. Only time will tell. People should monitor for useful market data over three, six, and twelve month windows rather than attempting to draw meaningful conclusions from a single, likely-anomalous data point.
And they'll sit on the large screen version as long as it takes them to get the new hybrid touchscreen right. Unlike MS and the entire satellite industry around Windows, Apple isn't willing to ship something that's half-baked out the door because "market experts" demand that they do it.Wow, the ignorance of this comment is staggering. Here are a few of Apple computers duds:
The real danger to innovation is a dearth of competition. Apple is a publicly traded company, in business to make money for the shareholders. Give them a monopoly and they will raise prices and stop spending money on innovation.
Actually, the iTunes store sells their video at 640x480. They claim it's so that it will look better when you pipe your videos from your iPod to a TV, but most people believe they're just planning ahead for the 6G iPod. My original comment stands: The Zune's screen, while slightly bigger, is no better, and will just stretch many videos out of their aspect ratio.
Go Apple Fanboys? Well, if that's how you wish to define "the entire consumer base of planet Earth," be my guest.
Go Apple Fanboys? Well, if that's how you wish to define "the entire consumer base of planet Earth," be my guest.No, it's how I define people like you that seem to feel it is some sort of religion rather than just another company selling products.
Hey, if Microsoft would bother to make a better product, I'd buy it.
Hey, if Microsoft would bother to make a better product, I'd buy it.I hear ya. Quite frankly, I'd be happy with my current device (a 3G iPod) if I could play the content I purchased from iTMS on other devices (like my Tivo). However, I don't think we'll get there until someone takes away a sizable percentage of Apple's market share. Microsoft is the only company I see with the marketing muscle to pull that off. I also think they are in a good position to leverage their other platforms (XBox, Media Center), assuming Apple doesn't get there first.
Uh, at the distances you watch either the Zune's or the iPod's screens, the slightly smaller screen on the iPod would look the same size as the Zune's simply by holding it about 1 inch closer to your eyes. These are not large screen HD TVs, you know.
I use my Newton every day. I especially love the GPS module I use when kayaking.
Msoft does suck. Look at Explorer -- MS has 20 billion in cash and can't hire someone who can read and understand the CSS specification. I do Web design for a living and 50% of my work is making stuff work with that sh*tty Explorer browser.
Zune on Amazon.com Sales Rank: #44 in Electronics (See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/new-for-you/top-sellers/-/electronics/all/ref=pd_dp_ts_e_1/103-9152512-0225443 )
Get this turkey while its still getable.
Apple holds 4 of the 5 top positions.
Heh heh... and I thought this was another "fear, uncertainty, doubt" article. :'D
Why can't they both suck?
I really REALLY hate iTunes. I hate how the iTunes music store prevents competition (you can't put music from most other online music stores on your iPod). $.99 a song is a giant rip off. I also thing the way music is organized in Windows Media Player is far superior. I don't understand why that isn't what Zune is using as it's player. Really, the only thing I like about iTunes are podcasts. The only difference between Apple and Microsoft is that one has more money.
I also really hate the click wheel on the iPod. I refuse to believe that there isn't a faster way to scroll through your songs. Once my current iPod bites the dust, I'm going with Creative despite the fact that I'm going to have to convert all my songs from ACC format (another thing I hate about iTunes incidentally).
Give Me iPod of Give Me Death!
Take My iPod from My Cold Dead Hand.
Amen! I don't want no stinkin' FM radio I want my AM talk stations for a diversion.
just now for the 'best selling' black Zune-
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #75 in Electronics (See Top Sellers in Electronics)
Zune 30 GB Digital Media Player (Brown)
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #499 in Electronics (See Top Sellers in Electronics)
Sinking like a zune.
hmmmm.... that might catch on.
Flushed down the e-toilet like a brown zune...
Another good zinger... I'm getting good at this...
Hilarious. Of course Steve Jobs has had similar presentation problems... just fewer of them.
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