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Summary:

So Microsoft is going to get into the music device business – imitating the same “integrated experience” philosophy as Apple has successfully deployed to carve itself a big share of the portable music player and online music business. Devices, the store, and the whole nine yards. […]

So Microsoft is going to get into the music device business – imitating the same “integrated experience” philosophy as Apple has successfully deployed to carve itself a big share of the portable music player and online music business. Devices, the store, and the whole nine yards. Hard drives, wifi, wireless discovery … it is as comprehensive feature set you can get using Microsoft Word’s copy & paste feature. Okay, I am being mean ;-)! (Engadget has the details, so no point in repeating them.

If there is a sense of panic inside Infinite Loop, then Jobs’ army must also be feeling feel vindicated. Their way is the only way to make sense of the inherently complex online world. It might be the start of a long drawn out of war, except this time don’t find expect Apple to be the loser …. just yet.

More on that some other day, but the real and perhaps the only story in the news is that Microsoft’s partners – from device makers to music services – just got double crossed by the company they choose to believe in. I like to call it Zun-ked (a tiny take off on Punked.)


Let me break this down: Zune – the devices, the platform, and the store/service – will compete with everyone from Apple (of course) to Creative Technologies, iRiver, Samsung, Archos, Rhapsody, Napster, Yahoo Music and anyone dumb enough to buy into Microsoft’s visions of Urge, Media Player, PlayForSure etc.

Microsoft could argue that Zune would be unique and those others can still do business. But it is also a classic example of why Microsoft is lumbering bureaucratic morass wrapped in a can of conflicts. A modern day version of medieval fiefdoms, perhaps? Take for instance; Urge, which is built into Windows Vista, and is what I guess you could call an almost integrated experience. What happens to consumers when faced with the choice of Zune or Urge!!! Answer – iPod!

Michael Gartneberg, analyst with Jupiter Research is spot on when he writes at the very end of his analysis,

Early market share, however, isn’t likely to come from disgruntled iPod users looking to switch. The real losers in the short term are likely to be the likes of Creative, iRiver and other former partners that have failed to deliver to market share from Apple and will now find themselves not only competing with Apple but with their former partners from Redmond.

Ironically, this is not the first time those who have chosen to believe in Microsoft have been double-crossed. There was the unceremonious killing of the Smart Display. That had left guys like Samsung in the lurch, especially after spending millions on that. I has posed that question to a visiting team of senior Samsung executives, but never really got an answer.

With Zune, Microsoft might have set a precedent in warning off companies who might want to partner with them in the future. Regardless, the Apple-Microsoft duopoly is an interesting opportunity for rest of the industry to come together and figure out a way to work together on open standards. Unfortunately it is not going to happen, so we will watch this game and see who wins.

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  1. I think Steve Jobs has been anticipating this move by Microsoft for a
    long time. An excerpt from an interview given to Newsweek in January,
    2006:

    Question:At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, there didn’t seem
    to be any iPod killers.
    Steve Jobs: The problem is, the PC model doesn’t work in the consumer
    electronics industry, where you’ve got all these companies and some
    does one thing and another does another thing. It just doesn’t work.
    What’s going to happen is that Microsoft is going to have to get into
    the hardware business of making MP3 players. This year. X-player, or
    whatever.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10853916/site/newsweek/

    And like Peter Oppenheimer declared in his analyst con call yesterday:
    “We’re not sitting here doing nothing”

    Game on.

    Regards,

  2. Just another note: the Zune feature list is so typical of Microsoft. Throw in everything except the kitchen sink so they can market it as having X 1 when really all people want is X-7. This is the reason Word is bloated and people only use 20% of the features. Even though Microsoft, Verizon etc. all claim otherwise, convergence is not ready for prime time – all they have to do is listen to the consumers (but, do they?) Finally, I wonder if Creative will sue Microsoft for patent infringements!

  3. Maybe the partners didn’t do a good job of delivering results. I’d guess that Microsoft wants to ensure that iPod users have a better alternative for a media player that works well with Windows Media Player, Media Center and Xbox 360. Since Apple doesn’t have a media center type offering and doesn’t have an entertainment system surely Microsoft is being reasonable in trying to deliver a good user experience.

  4. miniplayer.info Saturday, July 22, 2006

    Those partners who weren’t able to deliver their products in sufficient quantity may now get into the lucrative business of manufacturing Zune accessories.

    Bring it on Microsoft!

  5. Zunk’d is a more obvious spelling. It took iPod a couple if years to catch on. We could use “seamless connected experiences” in a lot of other places, too.

  6. Michael Foster Saturday, July 22, 2006

    It seems that Microsoft can’t win. People applaud Apple for creating an integrated media experience with iTunes/iPod and laugh at Microsoft in its efforts to compete – ‘Why didn’t Microsoft do what Apple did?’, they say. When Microsoft moves towards a more integrated experience, they get criticized for alienating their media partners. What do you think Microsoft should do, assuming their pre-Zune strategy wasn’t working?

  7. Toshiba Gigabeat S was a year late to market.

    Creative said that they were not competing with Apple anymore.

    iRiver doesn’t seem to be interested in the American market. Their music players have been too pricey anyway.

    You could also say that MS were been zun-ked by their partners for awhile now. Waiting for Apple to release their next version, would be disastrous.

  8. Matthew Smith Saturday, July 22, 2006

    Zunked? At least someone is innovating in the dap space. I have been waiting for Apple to add wifi to the ipod for 2 years now. Apple’s latest line – nano, video – was so disappointing that I opted to replace my battery on my mini rather than getting a new player. If Zune can do for the dap what the 360 did for consoles, I would be more than willing to move on. Projects such as last.fm show what a music community can be. Itunes is definately vulnerable too.

  9. I’m confused, although sadly not suprised. I’m not an Apple ‘fan boy’ or a Microsoft hater but Apple is a Hardware company so it makes sense for them to make a media device albeit not a computer; but Microsoft is a software company (primarily) so why do they insist on getting involved in anything that becomes a success? I don’t see more people using Macs because they have Ipods; most non-technical people I know, wouldn’t know the difference between a Mac and a Pc but they do know that there local PC World (or other High Street Computer shop) doesn’t sell them or if they do that they seem expensive compared to ‘X’ pc so it can hardly hurt there OEM sales. It just shows again (to me) that you can’t afford to do business with Microsoft. Of course sometimes you can’t afford to not either but how many times do they have to do this before there is a major backlash from companies working with each other competitors or not rather than with Microsoft? Again I don’t see Microsoft ever losing its domination due to the general public but surely if they can’t work with other companies that aren’t even competition then perhaps those companies will start looking for partnerships with others (think Linux – Ubuntu or Mac). What would Microsoft do if Sony, Creative et al decided to make systems that worked with Linux or Mac and started to promote those Operating Systems to people? They’re effectively forcing people to consider the possibility

  10. What gets me is the fact that Microsoft is so astonishingly mortified by the existence of markets it does not dominate. It suffers from an instinctive urge to expand, engulf and devour, like a cancer metastasizing to nearby organs – and that’s bound to be its downfall sooner or later.

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