The Zune, Microsoft’s new attempt to dethrone the iPod, is nice. Its a little big, but nice. I really mean that. From what I’ve seen so far in the form of video, articles and so forth, the Zune seems to be a decent Video / Photo / Music device. That sounds like me complementing a Microsoft product and, well, it is…but there is a catch. As nice as it may be, I don’t see the Zune even scratching the surface of the mammoth structure that is iPod’s dominance. Here’s why: Right now the iPod has an commanding lead in the market share of digital music players…ok its more like a Super Space Captain Commanding lead in the market share. I couldn’t find the current number, but for the sake of argument, lets say 75% (I’m being generous to Microsoft with that figure, I think.). So lets be generous to Microsoft again and say that every single person that doesn’t own an iPod agrees with me on how nice the Zune is goes out and buys one for Christmas / Festivus. Well even with that uber-generous assumption, you still won’t dent the iPod market share. As well all know, if you have something that dominating competing with you, you can’t win by just rounding up stragglers, you have to win by converting their users. Thats where “nice” just won’t cut it. “Nice” isn’t enough for me to take my $300+ investment in my iPod and put it away in my bottom desk drawer and go out and make another $300 dollar investment to switch to your team. To convert the invested iPod masses, you can’t just come out with a slightly bigger version of what they already paid for and go on about how great your screen is. You’ve got to bring something a little better than that to the party. Oh sure, they have their WiFi features, but those were castrated by DRM long ago with silly rules and axed functionality. The only chance the Zune has if Microsoft cuts the price in half…at least. Even then, its a hard sell.
The OS X Dilemma
One last thing about the Zune and this “big boy” talk before I go concentrating on finding half-naked lady picture for today’s Friday Feature: Why didn’t Microsoft make the Zune work on OS X? If you think that doesn’t matter, go ask your Mom if she knows what the Zune is. Hell, go ask your sister or dad or the guy that sleeps on your couch, they won’t know either. All new electronics go through the trickle-down effect: Geeks to Wanna-Be Geeks to Young People to Everyone Else. So whats the problem? Well guess what a major chunk of Geeks use for their every day computing? OS X. Believe it. I know more and more people in the industry switching to Mac and I live in St. Louis. I would imagine the Geek-Owning-Macs share is a factor of 10 higher out there. So when these Geeks go to try out the new Zune, they can’t. So they obviously won’t use it. Which seems like a minor-issue if a rather small group doesn’t use the product, until you think about the percentage of people in the important “Everyday People” group that are going to call up their Web Developer son to ask if the Zune is worth buying. That Web Developer son would reply “I never could really try it out. You are better off going with an iPod.” It wouldn’t have taken much to put together a version of Zune software for the Mac or even just license another company to do it.
Editor’s Note: I got pulled away at the end of that last sentence to do some, get this…work! I just wanted to let you know that I’m posting this, but if my train of thought wanders in this article or it suddenly ends, its because someone made me work, not because I had a mild stroke halfway through.