Shh! Microsoft makes the Zune? Really?

Walt Mossberg posted some interesting observations on the design of the Zune compared next to the iPod 30GB. It seems Microsoft is ashamed to admit they are behind the product. Nowhere in the Zune ecosystem is a mention of the company. The back of the unit vaguely refers to Redmond, with the text “Hello from Seattle”.

As a Machead, I have to laugh at this sad attempt from them. They know the Microsoft brand is so tarnished that they have to hide that fact in this product just to even come close to competing with Apple. Frankly, Microsoft has no business doing this entire line anyway. It’s not what their core business is, which is making software.

Sure, the argument can be made that hardware and software are nothing without each other. The industry is more mature than that, the lines in these two sectors are much leaner than they were in the eighties and early nineties. Apple somehow manages to stick to the middle, making great software that runs on great hardware. Apple also has twenty five years experience doing this very thing, where Microsoft does not.

As Mr. Mossberg points out, the Zune feels like a prototype. It isn’t sleek like the iPod (for peet’s sake, brown?), has a shorter battery life, and is a chore to carry in comparison. It, in many ways, seems like the first iPod in it’s size. Apple has proven that they can refine the iPod to make it a comfortable pocket addition, and it is ironic to me the Microsoft wouldn’t take this lesson to the design table.

The Zune can play video, but the online store doesn’t sell them. The only way to get video into the unit is through the Zune Player. Microsoft is trying to create it’s own currency with the Zune Marketplace, and users have to spend $5 a time versus $1 with Apple.

*Sigh*. I love competition; I think it’s great to see an effort being made to challenge Apple’s iTunes/iPod combo. Yet I read this piece and think to myself there is no compelling reason to switch. Keep trying Microsoft, I’m sure you’ll figure something out ten years after Apple has beat you to it again. Maybe someday Microsoft will be proud to put their name on that product, but for now it’s best they keep it a secret so consumers who don’t know can be duped into buying it under the assumption Zune is its own company.

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