Microsoft Comes Clean: OK, We're Building A Music Player To Compete With The iPod And We're Calling It Zune
By: Spacelab Research Staff
And now it's official. Following a fairly run of the mill "oops, it leaked to the media" initial PR campaign, followed by the official 'we have no comment' phase, we now have the official follow up to the follow up. It's real, it's happening, and the rumours were pretty close to the truth. It's called Zune, and it's Microsoft's big attempt to enter the iPod market.
As this story unfolds we find that it's not just one product, but probably three: an audio player, a video player, and a gaming console. All will be portable players. It's not clear yet whether the video player will just play video and not audio, but it seems an obvious guess that the music player will just be music, and thus the most affordable one; the video player will probably do both music and video; and the gaming thing will be for games or possibly all options at the same time.
Officially, the gaming device is only a 'maybe' at this point. All players will definitely be Wi-Fi enabled, so you can use it to connect at the coffee shop or any other hot spot you can find. Microsoft is still experimenting with options, but a Billboard interview with Microsoft's Chris Stephenson was pretty insistent that the basic theory is to make the experience "one part MySpace, one part iTunes and one part Xbox Live." They're looking at sharing content with other Zune players in the hot spot, connecting to online storage of your own media, and buying content online as options.
The announcement was initially made on a paid service part of Billboard, and later on Reuters, but eventually started spreading all over the web. Microsoft is taking a 'holistic' approach this time around -- offering the players, partnering with MTV to create URGE to buy content, and even going as far as to get two Microsoft employees to start blogs devoted to the subject (Cesar Menendez and Richard Winn) with the inside track. They have posts that coincide with the official PR launch on July 21st. They both even posted about the band I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness and Frida Hyvönen in EXACTLY THE SAME COPY?! I smell a copywriter...
This is what they both said, "Dodge over at My Old Kentucky Blog today has a post about Frida Hyvönen. Awesome, awesome stuff, I agree. So I explore a little bit on the Secretly Canadian site and find I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. Sweet. First of all: Best. Name. Evar. If their name on its own is not enough for you to love them, check this MP3."
So the holistic approach seems to be a good idea, but so far, it seems to be rolling out in a way that seems like a usual Microsoft way: good start, bad implementation. If the logo is any sign of the inventiveness or creativity behind the project, we might just have to start accepting that this might be a product line that is big on capabilities, but narrow on image. But hasn't that always been the striking difference between Microsoft and Apple? That might not keep Microsoft from making a big dent in the market and making a lot of noise — look at what they did with the XBox. At this point it's probably too early to guess.