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).
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