Zune – Why It failed

I hate to say it, but the Zune failed. As much as I like mines, it did. 

What I mean by ‘failed’ is that it failed to appeal to a huge market, beat the iPod, and become something people can be openly passionate about (just kidding). The point is, is that Microsoft took a big step backwards by launching the Zune as is. I’m going to be tallying up how many marks Microsoft got wrong for releasing the Zune as it is.

When I heard that it took just only 9 months for Microsoft to turn an idea to a real product, I was amazed like other people. Based on what I heard, it only took 9 months for Microsoft to turn an idea, into a somewhat good solid player in that time.

But now that I think about it, it’s not the same as it sounds. Now, I’m going, "Why didn’t Microsoft just take a more longer time to fix up the Zune for the market, and make it better? Instead of rushing it out for the holiday season?". Because, right now, the Zune just isn’t working for tons of people. It’s ‘pretty good’, but unfortunately, so is the iPod, the already main player in the market. So Zune being pushed out fast, was not the right answer. People are not going to rush for the Zune based on what it is right now, nor will they ‘slowly’ move towards it. No matter what, for many consumers in America, the iPod is the only player worth getting based on ubiquity and looks.

I expect the world’s largest software maker to do a better job than that. Instead of releasing a rather mediocre music player, with a few better features, into a sea of music players, I expect them to plan it all the way through and then release it for consumers to enjoy. But nope, they didn’t. So that’s mark 1: Releasing a rather mediocre music player to the market.

Then there’s the fact on how they delivered the Zune. Who’s Microsoft targeting? Your general consumers, or people who go to music concerts, love indie rock, and are so down-to-earth that you can’t believe it? Based on all that Zune advertising I’ve seen, Zune would seem like it’s suppose to appeal to the latter. I mean the ads and pictures are so corny and dumb.

In many product pictures you see, there are lots of people, many of course carrying a Zune player. There’s also a couple of pictures of people smiling and listening to a Zune player at a rock concert. Umm, why would anyone carry a music player to a concert? Dumb. Just so dumb. I’ll also tell you another thing, Microsoft is synonymous for putting ‘real people’ on splash pages, ads, banners, pictures all over the place. Unfortunately, putting out a real life picture of people using your product/service is never a good idea. A person who views this ad, will immediately notice the photograph of the person. Thoughts can range from, "Boy! She’s hot!" to "Ugh! Why did they even put that guy on there? *snicker*". Beauty of a person is very subjective to an individual, and that takes away from the main purpose of the ad/look – to get people to want/buy/like it. I see this problem all the time across Microsoft sites, and even ads. You have to stop – nobody likes it. Instead, graphical icons/logos are the king nowadays. They’re simple-like, and more than not, they look nice and simple. But ‘real people’ is too subjective.

All the other way Microsoft markets Zune is awful. Like Zune Arts. I don’t get the point of Zune Arts. Zune should be all about music, not art. Most of the little acts they have are rather weird and zany like. There’s only a few, that I would consider cool. So that’s another wasted endeavor. More than anything, the Zune marketing makes me want to stay away from the Zune, instead of want one. Plus, they do little to market why anyone would want a Zune in the first place. It’s just too funky during this time period.

Another advertising blunder is the so called "Social". What social? Why is Microsoft touting this? 1.2 million Zune owners scattered all over the country, is hardly what I consider a ‘social’. Plus it just sounds lame. Period. If there aren’t tons of users, there’s no social. Microsoft also over-touts the WiFi ability. As far as I know, you can use it to send songs and pics to other Zunes. In it’s own way, that’s limited too. Where’s the ability to buy songs right off the Zune device? Wireless syncing? And expanding WiFi features to be really complimentary to the Zune? Another blunder. Plus the whole "squirting" ordeal, that people to use nickname the WiFi sending is a bit out of hand. Most people like to joke about the Zune squirting, because I’m guessing that they mean "squirt" in a whole other way. A rather naughty way. Microsoft should just go ahead, and coin the process as "Zuning". Not "Squirting". Make it official. Like how Google has become synonymous to web searching, Zuning can be described as how music players send things between one another. I might be taking it overboard, but it’s a heck of a lot better than squirting.

So that’s another big mark: Lame advertising

The device itself – it’s too limited. It may be the first version, but in a market that’s rather mature, we expect a new guy to offer a couple of different types. Nope. Zune only comes in a 30 GB hard drive, and is rather large at this. The only thing that’s differential at the moment is what color you choose. How lame.

Instead, Zune should have came out with many models. From 30 GB to 90+. Offer a flash version with video. Thinner models. More than just new color choices: Consumers want options. iPod has come up lately, and now offers video on Nanos, and even the iPod Touch, a multi-touch, iPhone like version of the iPod. Microsoft is obviously falling behind. It’s almost a year by now, and there’s still no new models out. Sigh. Another mark : for not coming out with a couple of different models = no choice

Zune software is a mess. I’m talking about the one on the computer.

Microsoft tried to emulate the iPod + iTunes ecosystem, where device + software are suppose to work together, alike, & seamlessly, but failed. More than anything, Zune software is a mess. The first few times I tried it, it didn’t work so nice. Now, it runs ok, but consumers shouldn’t have to face any hassles. Lots of people have complained about the awful Zune software. It works out like this basically:

WMP 11 > iTunes > Zune

It’s that bad. iTunes I usually regard as trash (for the Windows version), but Zune’s worse than that. According to Wikipedia, Zune’s suppose to be a modified version of WMP 11. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take any of WMP 11’s awesome simple UI, beauty, style, ease-of-use, problem-free syncing, and all the other things that makes WMP 11 stand out above the rest. The only thing it outdoes is that in natively supports some formats that WMP 11 doesn’t, which is lame since it WMP should have in the first place. If it were me, I would rather Microsoft make the Zune device work with WMP 11 instead of the current Zune program. Another mistake: Awful music management software.

Which brings me to Zune Marketplace, the official place where Zune users can buy their music and stuff. If Zune was made for video, why don’t they sell music videos or TV shows and movies on Marketplace? Oh, probably because Microsoft didn’t plan long enough, and just pushed out the Zune before caring. For a device with a big screen made for video, it’s not offered on their online store. Just stupid.

Plus the Zune Marketplace offers little in terms of content like iTunes does. No audiobooks, TV shows, music videos, movies, games, podcasts and other stuff like that. Sad. Like URGE, it shows album art for all things before you try, offer high-quality music streaming, but otherwise than that, offers little. No lyrics, no better way of browsing, not a lot of content, no extras, DRM, and just plain nothing good. Another mistake: Online store falters

Last but not least, what Microsoft meant to promise. Where’s the firmware updates with new features that we’ve been dying for? Where’s the new better models that consumers have been wanting? Where’s the improvement to Zune software and Zune Marketplace? As far as I can tell, Microsoft hasn’t delivered on this. Another mistake: Not delivering on new stuff

So for the most part, Zune has not worked out at all. Many people (iPod lovers of course), say that Microsoft did it completely wrong with the Zune (how can I not agree?), it’s a failure, and that Microsoft ought to dump it before they embarrass themselves even more.

So if Microsoft doesn’t make the Zune 2.0 something really smash-hitting, Microsoft is really going to go down the tubes for this. There are several Zune fans out there right now, but if Zune 2.0 is another bummer, people aren’t going to give Microsoft another 2nd chance. It’s over. It’s done. Any future versions of Zune will be considered as trash, based on the precedent by Zune (first version) and Zune 2.0. So this is Microsoft’s last chance.

If Zune 2.0 doesn’t deliver what consumers want, Zune’s dead forever.


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