Why The Zune Fails To Impress

Microsoft revealed its new Zune music player this past week without the fanfare that Apple generated with its new iPod line. One really has to ask why Zune isn't nearly as successful as the iPod. The answer isn't really one thing.

First of all, the Zune's design isn't that appealing.  Microsoft opted to give the Zune a more boxy appearance with sharp corners. The colors weren't that inspiring, either with plan black,white, and a drab brown model. Apple, on the other hand, went with more a eclectic selection of interesting neon colors with their Nano line, for instance.

Which leads us to another problem: lack of product variation. The iPod line has something for everyone with cheap Shuffles that hold a couple GB of storage, to 160GB iPod Classic, to a fully functional phone/iPod/gaming device. The Zune prefers a one-size-fits-all-take-it-or-leave-it approach. People like choice--give it to 'em.

Finally, there's iTunes itself and the software to sync the iPod itself. The Zune has no such cross-platform equivalent. You're stuck with Windows Media Player, meaning this is a Windows only game. It's limiting and insulting at the same time.  Also, with the advent of the Apple App Store, users can purchase or even code up software to run on their device!

Also worth mentioning is this: It's very telling when a whole community lines up to hack the iPod to pieces, but one with the same zeal doesn't really exist for the Zune.

So what is Microsoft to do?  Good question. First off, they need their software to be cross-platform.  Microsoft is notorious for not doing this, but it was the iPod's saving grace.

Next, they need a product line that has something not only at the right price point, but provides a set of functionality/utility for varying audiences. Think Shuffle vs. iPhone. Not everyone needs or wants a bulky, touch screen player, maybe a matchbox-sized device with play button is good enough.

Lastly, Microsoft needs to outsource their product design department. I can't remember the last time I bought a Microsoft product and thought, 'wow, this makes me look good'. Apple seems to have proved itself in that regard time and time again--wait, what was up with the fat Nano design???

Anyway, to wrap things up, some might think I've taken a turn for the worse on Apple-fanboyism, so just to prove ya wrong, they're getting the smack down later this week.

Posted on Sep 14
Written by Wayne Hartman