back to article Time to axe Microsoft's Zune

If any Microsoft product group is a candidate for getting the chop during the next 18 months, surely - surely - it's the one leading the disastrous Zune. Either the technology people building it, those in marketing promoting it, or the channel group responsible for working with retailers to put the thing in the hands of …

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Silver badge

An interesting lesson...

Maybe Microsoft will learn what it is like to NOT be a market leader, where another company has a better product with an overwhelming market share.

Of course, they have money to burn anyway, so why bother!

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Dollars

I've never seen Microsoft pit the Zune against the iPod in price. They're not going to out-cool the iPod. They're not going to out-feature the iPod. What have you got left? Price. Microsoft should have taken the hit, way undercut the iPod on price, and out iTunes-stored the iTunes store.

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Not the point?

Isn't the reason for stuff like the Zune just a holding action to keep Microsoft in the market in case anything comes from that direction to threaten the core OS business? Same with MSN, Windows Mobile, XBox, etc, etc.

Bit of a waste of money though, but it isn't that much money that's being thrown away in terms of MS overall profits. (Online services and devices together lose USD2.7bln. The rest of the business makes USD20bln.)

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Dead Vulture

Branding

This reminds me of the Coke - Pepsi cola war during the 1930's. Zune is perceived as being the poor man's iPod as Pespsi was the poor man's cola.

Pepsi fixed this by offering bigger bottles for less money and, later, marketing Pepsi as a youthful drink option to the more traditionally stodgy Coke. The problem is that a Zune costs about as much as an iPod. If someone is buying a non-iPod MP3 player, they buy a Sandisk or other brand that is less then half the price of an iPod and offers the same functionality.

The Zune is not a bad design. The iPod has had a number of short-comings (crappy batteries, easily scratched displays) but is still popular despite them. It's a mater of consumer perception.

Since Microsoft can not seem to market itself out of a wet paper bag ("I'm a PC" was pathetic) I will predict the death of Zune in the very near future.

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Alert

Zune?

Never seen one, I don't think you can even get one here in Aus.

[Goes happily back to his 120GB iPod]

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Silver badge

Expand?

@AC, no they aren't sold outside of the US / Canada. They'd probably do better if they'd just export the things...

Although I wish I had never bought mine, the problem with it is that neither the software, nor the device understand Unicode, not too much of a problem, except for the fact that the software "Updates" your music library. I really enjoy seeing all my song titles represented by squares....

Seriously, it'd take, what. ~50 megs MAX to support Unicode(and through in an extra font or so) everything else that Microsoft sells supports Unicode (Hell even the original releases of NT did)

The display on it pretty nice, Much bigger than anything else I've seen and pretty good quality (except for the iPod Touch, but 8 Gigs MAX, WTF guys?)

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Anonymous Coward

But is it any good?

This article misses the point.

If Zune is a really good device, then MS should get out there and sell it, not kill it.

If Zune is no good, then MS should either improve it, or - yes - give up.

So what is it?

(It's never been offered here in .au , so I've never seen it, but some reviews I've seen apparently like it).

I don't want to see a good device die before it even gets here. (Who would? I just don't get that). And I don't really mind if the masses like it or not - I'll buy what I want because I can choose for myself, based on my own criteria. I don't need the comfort of looking cool in front of the high school kids.

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never seen one

and a quick internet search shows a 30GB model for £159. Had a look at the description and they seem to think that telling me their player is packed full of DRM is going to entice me!?! That it's a plus point!!

Fact is that 30GB is way too small for my collection and I'm very happy with formatting my 2GB Sandisk player, £39, every few weeks for a new mix (I know that Zunes come in bigger, more expensive forms)

Never seen a Zune in a shop, don't know anyone with one, on the rare times they're mentioned people seem to shake their heads and laugh.

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Gates Horns

MS by choice?

You've spent all day battling with MS software, trying to make sure your code is devoid of any proprietary MS 'extensions' and telling WU you don't want it to reboot since you have 10 applications open and are attempting to finish and unit test the component which has to go into the repository by 3pm to get into the nightly build.

You come home and find the kids crying because the XBox has the Red Ring.

Then you notice that your home desktop didn't have anyone to sit there and tell WU not to reboot in the middle of the 12 hour render you started before going to work.

Then you sit down to fix the website your brother has been working on and have to spend an hour or two stripping out all the frontpage tags. During which the missus has had you reboot her vista laptop 3 times already because it is having one of those days where it can't find the wi-fi router even if it is sat next to it, despite the other 5 machines in the house having no problem doing so in any room.

Finally you have to explain to your Dad on the phone that he has to set word 2007 to save in .doc because the publisher he is doing some work for can't read .docx

I don't care if the Zune came in solid gold and cost £1 the last thing I am going to do is buy something from MS by choice.

The only way to sell it is to provide a tall, dark, sinister individual with leather gloves and a gun to your head to accompany each unit.

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Gates Horns

Zune

From what I have seen, the Zune is a better product, but its only available in the States. I contacted MS and they had no plans for worldwide distribution.

Bollocks to them then...

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Are they actually on sale in the UK?

I've never seen them - to be honest, I thought they were only on sale in the US market.

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N

Never seen one

Me too, AC. I can honestly say that Ive never seen one, neither for sale or in use. As for being the butt of jokes on websites well thats different, there seems to be heaps of negative comment.

My sons response, when questioned about Zune was "The only use for a Zune, is to remove the internal crap & use it as a skin for your iPod, so no one would ever steal it"

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Coke vs. Pepsi

Actually, Apple hired the president of PepsiCo in 1983. His name is John Sculley. We all know how that worked out. We all learned how that worked out.

The thing is, there is no REAL competition between Apple and Microsoft on MP3 players. Apple was late to the game and raised the bar; Microsoft was much later to the game, and they did what they always do -- lower expectations. Shortly after, tech giants Intel and Dell dropped out, in large part because they knew they couldn't compete with the iPod. Dell actually sold iPods on their Web site for a time. Amazing.

I don’t doubt that many or even most Zune owners are satisfied with what they have. Here’s my thing: Apple dove into the MP3 market when that market was already well on its way to maturity. The iPod quickly made a big splash, and iTunes has played no small part in helping the iPod acquire and maintain a 70% market share. Apple did not engage in illegal, monopolistic business practices in order to achieve this level of prominence; nor did Steve Jobs hypnotize buyers, steering them towards the iPod.

When the iPod was released in October of 2001, it succeeded during a major recession caused by the terrorist attacks of 9/11. If the current economic climate adversely affected the Zune and other consumer products, then it stands to reason that it also adversely affected iPod sales. Yet, Apple reported a growth in iPod sales for the most recent quarter, versus a 54% drop in Zune revenues. How much better would the iPod have faired this quarter without the deepening recession?

I believe that Microsoft and its investors need to re-evaluate the Zune with regard to how it affects other products, and how it affects shareholder interests. And they need to take this very seriously. If I’m a Microsoft competitor — and I don’t believe that Apple and Microsoft compete in the sense that they appeal to very different groups of customers — then I truly hope that Microsoft continues to throw money and other resources at the Zune. Let them and their investors learn the hard way. Again.

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Unhappy

Zune was never going to work, heres why...

The zune was never going to be a the ipod killer that MS hoped it would be and it is difficult to see why MS entered the market.

Basically if you are going up against the gorilla that is Apple in the ipod market, you have to have something that differentiates markedly. The only thing the zune had was the wireless sharing. However two problems with that. Firstly it was hopelessly crippled by MS usually DRM fan boys. Secondly it relied on enough mass usage of the zune so that there was a chance someday you might meet another zune user. If you took that away you were left with a nice MP3 player competing with all the other nice non apple MP3 players in a sea made by Apple. And remember an ipod is not just a music player but is the focal point of a whole industry providing ipod addons. Zune never had a chance.

The question is what could compete with ipod? History has shown that it would either take a whole new technology shift(wireless music ???) or Apple to make a mis-step. So far Apple has shown they are not likely to do the latter, in fact you have to be impressed how they do not sit back and wait for the competition to catch up, but are constantly pushing the envelope. This makes it very hard to compete against. You only have to look how a few months after the zune was produced apple produced the itouch so totally changing the market before the zune ever got going.

So what about MS. Probably what they should of done instead of spending millions on Zune was got into phones. Here they have a slight advantage in that their software runs the corporate world so if they made a phone that seamlessly connected then corporate world would probably buy a few.

However even here they have a few problems. Firstly it would eat away at their mobile OS market, since they would be competing against the same people who buy there software from them at the moment. This would almost certainly push these same manufacturers to android and the like.

Secondly MS hardware sucks. They just do not have the ability to integrate the software and hardware into one unit, in the same way apple do. This must be partly to do with their reliance on 3rd party hardware suppliers to do the hardware design, then having to fit their software to it.

In the end of the day, MS should really concentrate on doing what it knows best, making operating systems for gray boxes

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M
Flame

Colour me surprised

When they only release something in the US and Canada then they are bound to have crippled sales. I live in the UK and I wouldn't mind having one but FFS! North America only?

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Gates Horns

Blimmin' priorities!

Yeah, they could'e dumped the Zune and kept ACES studio. Surely Flight Sim is more of a flagship than a rubbish version of the Ipod noone wants.

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Coat

New year death

And if they produce a device which can fall asleep because someone coded the wrong date algorithms into the firmware... and all the negative publicity that it brought... then it perhaps deserves to go the way of the Dodo...

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Dan
Stop

Why the Zune Hate?

A couple of years ago i was in the market for a new mp3 player, i was looking for a well featured device that had little to no DRM. The zune was a the perfect choice, it has more features than the iplod and is a solid piece of hardware. Microsofts move to update the Gen1 zunes with all the improvements that the zune 2 brought was a master stroke.

I harbour the typical anti-microsoft views but the zune is a great piece of hardware that has been overshadowed by the starbucks drinking, celebrity obsessed iplod owners. Would be a real shame to loose yet another competitior in the mp3 market.

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Do they sell them in the UK?

I can't recall ever seeing one.

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Hang on a a sec

Im a Zune owner in the UK. First off, its a great product, I got rid of my iPod to use this. Its just easier to use. Its cheaper. Looks smarter. The interface was, in iterations, getting better.

Microsofts only problem was in not releasing the Zune outside of the US. Ive never been a fan of iTunes, the zune software is slicker in my books. My only great annoyance is not being able to log in because I cant agree to the terms and conditions lol because Im out side of the US.

The technology behind the Zune is sound, I love mine. £120 for a top quality 80Gb Music and Video player is not to be sniffed at. Zune is failing because of the idiots managing its marketing. Its not the Zune that needs axing, its the management.

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Next time

They should think twice before calling any product "zune". They might as well have called it "schite" or "pewk" - it's just as tasteless and disgusting.

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Linux

not seen one for sale here in the UK

Is there a different term to Vapourware, when talking about hardware ?

disclaimer: I may not have looked very hard

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Gates Halo

I have a 120GB one

I bought it online, as you can't actually get them outside the Americas.

It's actually quite a nice piece of hardware, and the updates for it have been quite regular, and have added a few new features. Being able to send songs wirelessly would be cool if a) anyone else actually had a Zune and b) it didn't add the stupid DRM restrictions to the track you send. The FM radio isn't bad either, and adding XNA games support was a good idea (though I haven't bothered to get any games for it, since I can't actually access the Zune store due to living in the UK).

The headphones you get with the 120GB, so I'm told, aren't anything special, but the premium headphones I got with my (now broken - accidentally smashed the screen) 80GB Zune are good for a bundled pair.

The problem Microsoft has is two-fold. First, the first-generation Zunes (never had one) looked like crap. Second, iPod is such a big name that your average punter is going to buy one of those instead. I actually used to own an iPod Nano. The hardware was good, but the headphones kept breaking (went through three pairs in one year), and I found iTunes to be a pig on Windows (iTunes is the main reason I've stayed away from the iPod and iPhone - Apple seem to be really bad at writing software for anything other than Macs).

Then again, Microsoft has the money to piss away, and I for one am glad of that - I like my Zune a lot.

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Paris Hilton

Services suck

"Microsoft will try to explain this in terms of planned "Zune services," no doubt."

And there's the problem. People just about tolerated Apple tying the iTunes store to the iPod, but only because Apple were selling everyone's childhood memories and it was the only such store in town. Given a choice, everyone now uses Amazon, 7digital, or whatever.

Memo to just about everyone in the tech business. Services suck.

I don't rent my consumer electronics, and I don't want to rent the things I use them for either. Once I've shelled out the cash, I want to *own* stuff. I *certainly* don't want to buy the bit that goes out of date (the hardware) and rent the stuff that is forever (the content). That's *totally* arse backwards.

I concede that there might be a market for renting a Zune and swapping it for the latest model on a yearly basis, a bit like mobile phone handsets, but I doubt that's what Microsoft have in mind.

Paris, coz she knows about services that suck?

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Paris Hilton

Tech followers, not leaders

MS have never really innovated, only absorbed new tech or good people.

Now Apple are well beyond being Borg'd, have some of the best tech engineers in the business, and street cred thats priceless.

I'm sure plenty of overconfident, high-fiving, wanky yank managers up in MS towers thought they could fuck over Apple no problem, at least if you threw enough cash at it (see Xbox for an example).

It will never, ever be a contender, even before the eye-popping brilliance of the Touch and iPhone came out.

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Silver badge

Planning

"... "Planning is fast and furious," he said...."

This might be part of their problem.

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The Onion nailed this...

Back in December 2007:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/thousands_wait_overnight_at

"Thousands Wait Overnight At Microsoft Stores For Second Generation Zune"

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returned mine

I bought an 8GB a few months ago.

Taken separately:

The player was really a very nice piece of kit, in my opinion, beautifully made and worked a charm. Was majorly disappointed, though, that it didn't have any sort of equalizer/sound enhancement features, which even the cheapest players nowadays do.

The Zune software was great for organizing your music, too, much better than WMP.

However, the combination of the two was like being in a straight-jacket, primarily due to its deliberately designed inability to be used as a mass storage device.

And then there was the inescapable impression that actually listening to music was really just a secondary consideration in all this, that its main purpose was to get you to *buy* music from the Marketplace.

That, and the whole "Social" thing; that might hold some charm for teenagers but I'm well beyond that holding any interest for me.

After a week, I traded it in for a Samsung P2 and couldn't be happier.

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Flame

the rest of the world

Maybe the fact that this product is not sold and therefore unknown in the most of the world doesn't help to make it a "cool" object and build the "Zune" brand. Not to mention that some of countries where the Zune is not sold are not experiencing such a bad recession as the US.

I am sure that if Apple had launched the iPod only in the US they would be in the same situation now.

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Ian
Unhappy

Well I for one would be sad to see it go

Yes I had to go through unofficial channels to get one outside of the states but I was so much happier with it than any of the ipods I'd owned previously with thier numerous faulty batteries and hard drives.

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Gold badge

iPods have it wrapped

Music, videos, internet, apps, games etc..etc...

Why buy an ugly Zune that offers you less?

How can you buy a Zune anyway, they're only available as grey imports.

Microsoft should have put Zune resource into Windows Mobile, updated the WM OS and made it more modern. Then used that as a base for Zune.

This is pretty much what Apple did, developed one OS used in the iPhone and iPod touch.

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Stop

pity - competition is good

I do hate MS , but I dont want apple controlling the mobile music market.

They already have far to much influence and iTunes is such a pos. Hopefully someone else will step in and offer a bit of a fight.

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Stop

The thing is...

Microsoft has form in seeing someone else doing something successfully, and trying to emulate it. They did it in the early days of the internet, with IE, and Word and suchlike, but unfortunately the world has changed, and its attempts to copy rivals just don't work any more.

Really, the management need the balls to say 'we do these things well, we should stick to them', rather than chasing butterflies, but unfortunately, from bitter experience, they won't.

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Dead Vulture

$100 drop in revenue?

Dear Mr Ballmer. Try breaking into Bill's old office and looking under the mousemat. You should come out ahead.....

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Linux

Xbox too?

Rumors abound that Xbox is also to go, as it's a large cash liability (despite making small amounts of profit for a couple of quarters), Shareholders are not happy about the accumulated losses, in the region of $9Billion, than Microsoft have swept under previous quarters earnings reports. Sony have a nice new evolutionary platform to develop PS4 ("Cell2"), and Nintendo can't do anything wrong, Microsoft are stuck with PC-Like tech and shareholders unwilling to invest lots of money to develop the next Xbox.

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W

Picking the wrong fights.

MS went up against the iPod and now it's all about the iPhone.

See also: Xbox.

MS went up against the PS3 and now it's all about the Wii.

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Thumb Up

I had one......

I had a 1st Gen Zune and at the time I thought it was the Dog's doodahs. I think I was the only person in London with one at the time.

I was on honeymoon with the missus and we went to a mall and spent some time looking for DS games and asking whats good etc.... The salesman plied me with Guitar Hero and asked what else we were buying and I told him that we were going to go to the apple store to replace an ipod some scumbag had nicked at our wedding reception and he talked me into putting in a preorder.

Anyway, got it and it was much loved until over a year and a half later when the iPhone came out and I changed phones so it was not needed.

But it does do a lot of technical things right. Wireless sync would be one of them. Lending tracks via wireless would be the other. If only MS got more studios on board for tracks, allowed it to play divx/xvid natively and priced it better it would get more of a foothold.

But don't deride the Zune - it is actually a good product.

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Happy

How to be more successfull

Stop crippling each of the areas of OS, tools and Applications by stupid lock in tricks.

Three separate companies/divisions none of which have to lock to the others. It will make Windows higher quality if it has to run any tools and applications and no stupid undocumented API tricks for Explorer, Media Player or Office.

Internet Explorer and Media Player etc in the applications division. Make all of it run on Windows, OSX, Solaris and Linux. Quality will be better. Put Sharepoint, Exchange and such here.

Make the IDE (.net studio etc) run on any platform. Stick SQL server and IIS here. Put GUI development group here.

Ditch Xbox, Zune, WinCE,/WinMobile. Two versions of OS:

1) Desktop/Server identical. Only one version, not the crippling Home, Buisiness, premium and Server versions. At install time pick Server or Desktop and then if Desktop all the extra services are disabled. Any free SQL/IIS/IDE versions on a separate disk. MediaPlayer/Exchange/Office/IE etc free versions on a separte disk. Make GUI/Explorer an optional component on Server.

2) A more like NT3.5 version with no GUI for embedded and mobile devices.

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Paris Hilton

RIP Zune

So, farewell dear Zune

Uncompetitive answer to iTune

Its seems your marketing would embarrass

Someone as thick as Paris

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Alert

Out of zune...

Microsoft cant compete on style or functionality, they wont compete on features, or on hardware. they dont stand an ice cubes chance in hell.

The deserve all they get. and if they'll just accept it instead of adding foibles to there OS they might keep thier OS customers happy... if they keep screwing the OS they will lose that too.

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Tom
Silver badge

The point is

not to produce useful, usable software - I'd have noticed that - but to dominate the market.

What happens when the 'music industry' finally collapses due to reality and musicians sell direct?

The only way for MS to take a share of that is to try and convince people they're providing a service - something they do brilliantly compared with their software 'development'!

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Jobs Horns

Leap year bug

Wot, forgotten their disastrous Zune leap year bug already -- the one that temporarily bricked virtually every 30Gb Zune on the planet, and for which Microsoft's fix was "just wait until the new year rolls round and reboot it"?

Yes, that happened late in December -- but it won't have done any good to the post-Christmas sales, or to customer loyalty for that matter.

(Wasn't there also a DRM server whoopsie, or am I getting confused with someone else?)

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Some salesman Ballmer is..

Maybe if they sold the things outside of the iPod saturated markets of the USA and Canada then they might be more succesful than they are. It seems crackers that they have a better product than the iPod but don't want to sell the fucking thing.

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Thumb Up

So rare I might buy one.

Serious these things are like hen's teeth in my local high street. Buy one, keep it unopened for 5 years and the sell the little retro goldmine on ebay.

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Stop

FFS Shut Up!

You know not the harm you do! It goes like this:

MS: Here is our New Hotness(TM), you will love it! Buy now!

Hapless Consumers: OK

Blogosphere: This is shit! It should never have been born! <Laugh and point at MS and hapless consumers>

MS: Oh, er, you're right. OK, we'll make something better this time, and let's agree not to talk about this episode ever again, mkay?

Hapless Consumers: Hang on, where's the support you promised us?

MS: Support for what? The product you refer to never existed, you made it all up! <cough>

Blogosphere/help-forum denizens: HA! You bought WHAT? Stoopid n00b, go away you make my throat bleed.

I know nought of Zune, but you're encouraging Redmond to orphan it just as they did with Win ME and apparently Vista. Won't somebody please think of the early-adopters?

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Gates Horns

Zune is a sacred cow

It cannot be slaughtered because it would mean the end of WMA as a format.

Zune was conceived because of the failure of WMA+DRM with hardware "partners", and with the rise of DRM free stores MP3 and AAC players don't need Microsoft's proprietary audio format (and the license fees that go with it).

Similarly VC-1 (i.e. WMV-HD) was once ubiquitous on HD-DVD but is less prevalent on Blu-ray, and is only seeing life in Xbox video downloads atm.

If this route continues the only software to use Microsoft's codecs will be Silverlight and Xbox.

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Anonymous Coward

Nope

You can't actually buy a Zune outside of the US.

That's probably reduced their target audience so much. I was looking to buy one to replace my aged Samsung player, but as I couldn't I just grabbed an iPod Touch instead. Now all my music are belong to Apple, so even if they do bring it out over here, I probably won't get one.

Unless it includes an ebook reader and web browser. Then Apple can go F**k themselves.

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Ian

Probably not going anywheer.

I can see two reasons why the Zune probably isn't going to be axed. For starters, everyone I've ever encountered has more of a love for it than anyone I know with an iPod instead. When you get past the anti-Microsoft propaganda, and buy it for what it is - a personal media device it actually seems like people think it's a really good product.

But secondly it's worth pointing out Microsoft has spent the last year since XNA 2.0 was released updating XNA to 3.0 with one major feature in place and little else- Zune support. Microsoft seems pretty keen to get indies developing games for the Zune whilst integrating it with the whole Live product range.

I think Microsoft has a plan for the Zune but that it's simply not come to fruition yet. Microsoft has the XBox 360 in the living room, the PC in the study/bedroom and the Zune is to be their mobile component of the overall Live system. Ignoring the now long dealt with RROD problem the XBox 360 is a really good product, managing to put Sony - who led the console market hands down for the last decade - in clear last place, whilst they aint up with Nintendo yet, that's a hell of an achievement. The PC is of course the clear winner as the computer gaming platform and as the general computer entertainment platform be it for chatting to friends on MSN messenger or playing games online. The mobile market is the last place Microsoft has to truly bring its hold on digital entertainment to and I'm guessing Microsoft probably plans to take on either the Nintendo DS, the iPhone or both at once and it's experimentation with the Zune (and it was experimentation, hence why it was only released to a limited market- North America) is just a precursor to doing the thing on a larger scale.

Microsoft is not without it's competition- Steam currently dwarfs Live for the amount of available content for example and the fight into the mobile market will be a tough one.

One things for sure however, the XBox 360 is a demonstration that Microsoft can extend further into additional entertainment markets and do so strongly, knocking flat out along with Nintendo what would previously be seen as an infallible contender- Sony. With Windows mobile devices still being prominent out there as second only in units out there to Symbian devices (although the iPhone is gaining ground on this lead) they have the experience to do it. It's all just about the execution and whether they can pull that off.

Microsofts vision is this- you have your Live profile, that profile holds your XBox 360 and Windows Live games achievements and your Zune achievements. It links all your downloadable content and your MSN Messenger, Hotmail, Live spaces (and to an extent Facebook with their latest deal) together. It will link your media, your music and movies together to be downloaded and played on your XBox, your PC or your Zune and so on.

I can see where Microsoft is going and the Zune is certainly a key element there, to kill it off would kill of a sizable chunk of their current overall focus. It would ultimately be pointless because they'd only have to come back and start all over in the mobile entertainment sector again at a later date.

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