Space Ramblings

Can the Zune Succeed?

Over at PC Magazine, Lance Ulanoff is rather cynical about the possibilities for the Zune’s success, despite the thing winning a PC Magazine Editor’s Choice award, (How did that happen anyway?) saying,

The harsh reality is that Microsoft will never win in the digital music market—unless someone discovers that iPods cause cancer. I have to believe that Microsoft knows this and accepts it. It’s not looking for Apple converts—a good plan because there won’t be any. Instead, Microsoft will go for digital music virgins. There are still millions of them.

Part of that is true but part of it is also overstated. Most iPod owners are not Apple converts. They bought the iPod, they didn’t join the cult. Fanatical Apple cultists will never give up Apple products until you pry them out of their dead hands. They would buy iPods even if iPods did cause cancer and were made out of pure radioactive plutonium and played only one song at an ear piercing whine, so long as iPods came with dancing commercials and a hip cachet. Most people though just want a product that does cool stuff. The Zune 2.0 is better at marketing and demonstrating that it does cool stuff, which is why Zune 2.0 is selling better than Zune. With short product cycles, it seems that Microsoft may keep cranking out new Zunes.

“Young people graduating from the Nintendo DS to music players may not accept the Zune (“cool” plays too large in their lives and they’ll likely demand an iPod touch or nano), but young adults, grown adults, and the elderly could be perfect target markets for the new Zunes.”

I think that’s over simplified too. Trends have a short half life. The iPod’s coolness warranty for kids is nearly expiring. To kids, the iPod can quickly become something that adults use. The Zune can tap into that market, particularly based on social broadcasting. Most Zune reviewers point out that they don’t know anyone who owns a Zune, but considering that a lot of them have been sold, it does seem like some demographic is buying them, just maybe not the white middle aged male computer columnist demographic.

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