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Microsoft To Exit the Zune Business?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the leaving-only-the-other-makers-of-zunes dept.

Microsoft 361

thefickler writes "According to Microsoft's quarterly filings to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Zune platform experienced a revenue drop of 54 percent, or $100 million. This compares to relatively healthy sales of the iPod, which were up 3 percent in the same period (though revenue did drop by 16 percent). Obviously, with the recent job cuts at Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, pundits are wondering how soon until the Zune also gets the chop. As one pundit wrote: 'Microsoft, by now, should be realizing that it's never going to be as "cool" as Apple, so why waste its time with the Zune where it has no competitive advantage?'"

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What really runined it was... (5, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597429)

Steve Ballmer saying "squirt".

Heckuva marketing slogan, that one.

Notice to Sourceforge: Kill off Slashdot! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597467)

A much better website:

Notice to Sourceforge, Inc. management: Close down Slashdot, sell the domain to a squatter, and focus on your core competency: Sourceforge. It needs a lot of work.

Slashdot no longer serves a unique purpose. The forum is a mess of buggy AJAX, it is irrelevant, the editors have no talent, and the news sucks!

News for Nerds. Stuff That Matters. NOT!

It's not news, it's not written by journalists and it's not stuff that matters. The only true part about their tagline is that it's for nerds. Stupid ones. Ones who are probably wearing some lame t-shirt from ThinkGeek with a stupid expression like "All your haXoRz are belong to us."

This thread about the 2.4.18 kernel release is a typical Slashdot news item. Idiocy, misinformation, testosterone-poisoned posturing, technology punditry, arrogance, bad logic: just another day in Slashdot-land.

The classic exchange is one Slashdotter complaining about ACs (people posting as Anonymous Cowards, i.e., not registered) and another Slashdotter blasting him for being so stupid and then outlining the steps need to get a for-all-intents-and-purposes anonymous Hotmail account and registering on Slashdot with a bogus name.
Lame personalities

Some of the Slashdot people have personality cults which is weird because they are incredibly lame. Every single poll seems to have a reference to a character named CowboyNeal. One of the founders/editors, Rob Malda, goes by the handle CmdrTaco, and his posts are incredibly shallow and stupid (although admittedly not much more than those of the other editors).

Every Slashdot-hater will claim to have a particularly dark place in their hearts for a certain individual, but frankly, they're all about the same. I ran into them in the Linux pavilion of Comdex a couple of years ago and they're a truly sorry bunch of humans. Just more proof that if you had the choice to be smart or lucky, you're much better off being lucky.
The problem with online forums: Why Slashdot isn't different than the rest

Admittedly, Slashdot's lameness isn't unique. As a matter of fact, it's normal. The main problem with online communities is that they do not scale well. While engineers argue about whether or not MySQL-backed sites can handle significant traffic, etc., they are really missing the point. Even if the software can handle it, the community can't.

Throwing more hardware at it doesn't help the problem. Nor does throwing more software. Nor does throwing more moderation. Nor does adding big warning messages to "please search the archives before posting a question." People get tired of hearing the same old questions over and over. What was once a place where new and innovative discussions sprang up every day is now a place where the same ten questions get asked over and over. Many of the most valuable contributors are the first to leave, just like talented employees bailing out of a foundering corporation.

The only hope is to pick a topic that is so esoteric that growth is extremely limited. Splitting up a community into sub-communities is also a possibility, but one that doesn't always work. If done too late, the majority of the most valuable contributors will have already left. Splitting a big blob of noise will result in many little blobs of noise. If done too early, there might not be sufficient energy/critical mass to nurture the newly-founded subcommunities.
What makes FC different?

The, uh, community citizens at contribute about the same quality of knowledge as your average forum participant, but unlike Slashdotters, A.) they aren't as arrogant, B.) they all seem to realize where they're posting (i.e., after all, the website is called, and C.) Pud (the founder/editor) knows he's a lucky idiot.
The very worst part about online forums

For the newcomer, a vibrant, high-traffic online forum seems like the El Dorado of information. It's not. It's a Pandora's Box, but even worse. The biggest single problem about online forums is the amount of incorrect information being provided. For the average newbie, there is absolutely no way to tell who is telling the truth. Veteran status doesn't count, nor does his/her post count (i.e., someone with 3000+ posts isn't any more credible than someone with 150 posts).

Many online forums have an "Off Topic" posting area so specific forums don't get watered down with unrelated issues. These places are very, very dangerous. These are places where opinions are offered, often backed by little/bad/no facts. While it's one things to ask people in a photography forum about cameras, it's another thing to ask a bunch of DVD aficionados about income tax law.

The saddest thing is that people apparently believe that soliciting the thoughts of total strangers on serious topics such as personal bankruptcy, medical procedure issues, dealing with troubled children, etc. is normal on these relatively anonymous online forums.
Can you do anything about misinformation?

No, not really. For every one or two people with actual knowledge, there are dozens of people with no/little/bad knowledge.

If you refute someone, you will get a dozen people saying, "but I do _____ and it works for me" or the indignant "leave _____ alone, his answer is just as good as the next person's!" It's pointless to argue online. Unlike real life, everyone's opinion counts online. People will hear what they want to hear, and mostly it's their own voice (or other people telling them that they agree).
Me, me, me!

This thread about good web design (again, a non-newsworthy item) is pretty much the perfect example of the "My voice is just as loud and therefore just as authoritative as anyone else's" train of thought.

Go ahead, read the comments. An abnormally large number of them are actually thoughtfully written, only to be lost in the maelstrom of "Listen to me!! Listen to me!!" Sad, truly sad.

Re:What really runined it was... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597833)

I'd say that changed it from a mere failure to a hilarious screw-up.


wheres (4, Funny)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597437)

the "suddenoutbeakofcommonsense" tag

Re:wheres (5, Funny)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597609)

everyone misspelled it

Re:wheres (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597687)

May I suggest a keyboard [] for future investment?

Just because (0, Flamebait)

El Lobo (994537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597439)

Just because not everybody wants to be "cool"? I don't want "cool" things. I hate the ipod (I got one as a gift a while back) and I hated it to death, so i kept using my Creative instead. I dislike OSX and macs and use mine only as a test machine. I don't own and don't plan to get a iPhone. So there is a marked for a not dumbed doen uncool things. Sure, they are not as profitable, but it's all about the choice. That said, I'm happy about my creative Stone, so I don't plan to get e Zune either.

Re:Just because (2)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597453)

So there is a marked for a not dumbed doen uncool things. Sure, they are not as profitable, but it's all about the choice.

Except that the Zune, by all accounts, was uncool and dumbed down

Re:Just because (1)

delysid-x (18948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598107)

My Toshiba Gigabeat was like a Zune but cool and (once I got Rockbox on it) smart. Gameboy games on MP3 players! The screen suffered an unfortunate accident though. At least I have a tiny 20gig hard drive now!

Re:Just because (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597585)

But in the uncool market the Zune has to compete with Creative, iRiver and all those companies, that actually know how to make an MP3 player.

Re:Just because (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597815)

Actually, I have an iriver and everyone I've shown it too agrees, it's very cool. It's on a whole other level to most other mp3 players, but the company can't back it up with press stunts and things.

Re:Just because (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597995)

But Microsoft does know how to make an MP3 player. Unfortunately, they also know how to kill it with DRM. If I could sync my Zune in Linux, to be honest, it would be perfect. Especially given what I paid for it - 50 USD for a 30GB PMP with its feature set is pretty impressive IMO, even if I do have to boot into a Windows VM to put stuff on it.

Re:Just because (2, Interesting)

Screaming Cactus (1230848) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597709)

I agree with you, I hate ipods too, mostly because I hate itunes, but I was never too crazy about the ipod itself, either. I had planned on getting a Sansa, but having a gift certificate at Wal-Mart, I had to choose between a Zune and an iPod. I really like my Zune, though. I've never had any problems with the player, although the software on my pc, since version 2, has been a major headache. I can't figure out what could possibly be uncool about the Zune, other than the fact that Microsoft makes it and it's brown (which is actually an "in" color right now, except for technology). I don't see how the term "dumbed-down" can really even apply to an mp3 player. How advanced can you expect it to be? I seriously, honestly think that 80-90% of the people dissing the Zune have never even used one, and are just jumping on the Hate-The-Zune wagon, which itself is simply riding on the bigger Hate-Microsoft wagon, which is more like a mobile city than a wagon. But having owned both the Zune and iPods, I would make the same choice again.
And about the Zune having DRM (is what I heard), I don't really understand that because it comes with a built-in wireless system so you can share your music with any other nearby Zune. Which seems like the opposite of what DRM is trying to accomplish. I have yet to see an iPod that does that.

this comes as no surprise... (4, Insightful)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597459)

It's fairly easy to see why the Zune failed.

1. A mammoth uphill struggle to beat the popular and well-established iPod (as well as many other competitors)

2. The use of DRM.

3. The use of the word "squirt." Which is easily associated with bodily functions.

4. It came in brown. Which made "squirt" all the more obnoxious.

5. The lock-up issue.

No-one will miss it...

No-one will miss it...? (5, Funny)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597509)

Nobody except this guy: []

Oh, now I see why it failed...

Not even the tatoo guy (4, Informative)

lokedhs (672255) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597843)

I presume you missed this [] .

Re:this comes as no surprise... (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597529)

It also isn't clearly better. Yes, some would argue that the sound quality is better, but most people are happy with the sound quality of the iPod. Being able to beam music to another Zune is great, but not if there's only one in your world. And FM radios in portable devices usually aren't all that fantastic if you are outside a major metro area because of signal fade and Clearchannel.

An iPod killer would have to be clearly better, and that's hard to do. Not because the iPod is perfect, but because it is good enough. And no, I don't really like the iPod... I use my phone as a music player, and I find it much better for a lot of reasons, although it isn't marketed very well in the US.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (2, Insightful)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597621)

It's fairly easy to see why the Zune failed.

I can't even see the Zune succeeding if all iPods suddenly combusted. It was a bad product from day 1.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26598025)

It was a bad product -at- day one, but it's gotten far better since. It has some very impressive features which I haven't seen in any other MP3 player at that price range, and upgrading older versions to support all the features of the newer ones is something I wish more companies would allow. If they'd just open the fucker up and lose the DRM...

Re:this comes as no surprise... (4, Insightful)

anss123 (985305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598151)

It was a bad product -at- day one, but it's gotten far better since. It has some very impressive features which I haven't seen in any other MP3 player at that price range, and upgrading older versions to support all the features of the newer ones is something I wish more companies would allow. If they'd just open the fucker up and lose the DRM...

The way I think DRM should work is like this: If you try to play a file which you don't have the 'key' for the media player will still play it, only also informing the user that it's playing an unlicensed song somehow. Thus make DRM a tool to help the user stay legit, instead of a punishment for those who are legit but can't playback the file the way they want to.

That way it's the user, and not a potentially faulty algorithm, that have the final say whenever they can play back the music or not.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (5, Insightful)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597665)

I don't know if it was a factor, but it is deliciously funny, that Microsoft's Zune did not play Microsoft's PlayForSure format. :-)

Zune = Deathstar (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597673)

They killed the brand with a massive fault and the bad publicity surrounding it. Nothing else in Zune's history needed to happen to justify scrapping the brand, just like nothing else needed to happen for IBM's Deskstar brand to be sold off after it became known as Deathstar.

Xbox Fiasco Next To Get Axed (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597681)

The entire Entertainment and Devices Division is going to get a massive house cleaning.

Zune hardware is the first step. It's the easiest to kill off. How much of stand alone portable music player market there will be in five years when so many people are starting to use their cellphones makes just throwing in the towel on the Zune hardware an obvious choice.

Killing off the eight year long Xbox fiasco is next. Microsoft has been consistently killing off or letting go first party developers for the past couple of years. The first party developers are now done to only Rare, Lionhead, and Turn 10. Not the actions of company looking long term to still be in the console market. Other none developer Xbox staff at Microsoft got axed in the recent layoffs and there is supposed to be even more dramatic changes and cuts coming soon.

So far the two Xbox products have racked up over 8 billion in losses over 8 years. Even with the poorly designed and manufactured Xbox 360 hardware Microsoft is still losing money three years into the consoles life. The Entertainment and Devices Division only barely made a tiny profit for 2008 due to absurd accounting games like having the profitable Microsoft Mac software unit placed in the Xbox's division to help hide the hardware losses.

The days of Microsoft being willing to just keep throwing money at the Xbox fiasco are coming to an end. The remaining first party studios should be gone by this year going by the rate they've been closing down or letting go their other studios. The 2 to 3 billion minimum it would take to create another Xbox isn't going to happen. Instead Microsoft will just let the Xbox die out in the market over the next couple years and milk as much money as they can out of the suckers willing to keep paying 50 dollars a year for online gaming.

Re:Xbox Fiasco Next To Get Axed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597805)

It isn't hard to see why MS is looking at dumping the Xbox. The 360 is obviously the cheapest and worst console hardware ever made and MS is still losing money on it even after three years on the market. When you estimate the money MS is making from the online fees and take that away the hardware losses are absolutely insane for what is hardware of the lowest quality.

If you are MS right now and looking doing massive cost cutting to the company you have to be asking yourself what is the point of continuing to waste money of the Xbox. You obviously can't go with hardware that is cheaper next time. And paying for higher quality hardware than the 360 will just generate even more losses than the 360 has are out of the question.

Microsoft has no internal chip/console hardware design and manufacturing capabilities. And there is no way they could buy and or build up such capabilities in time for another Xbox console even if they were willing to make the huge investment that would require.

Throwing a bunch of desktop PC parts into a box led to massive losses with the first Xbox. Going with cheap components led to massive losses with the Xbox 360.

Other than a bunch of hand waving about 'we'll get it right next time' there is no way in hell anyone who controls the purse strings at MS is going to green light another Xbox.

Future Of Zune,Xbox,WinMo (1)

MediaStreams (1461187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598069)

It sounds like the entire E&D division is going to have a massive shakeup.

Zune hardware will get killed off and the software will move into Windows Mobile.

Xbox hardware won't get killed off right away but all investment in the platform is at an end. Microsoft will finish shutting down the remaining internal dev studios and continue to reduce Xbox staff while trying to keep up the illusion they are sticking around in the console market so they keep as many people paying online fees as possible over the next couple years as the 360 dies out in the market.

Windows Mobile is now the main focus with massive pressure to come up with something to publicly show after falling so terribly behind the past couple years. Mobile phone makers are rapidly standardizing on Android if you look at the release plans for 2009 and the massive number of Android based phone coming out.

Robbie Bach will most likely be gone sometime in 2009 with most of E&D shut down leaving pretty much just the WinMo stuff merged with Zune and as much of the Xbox mess migrated over to Microsoft's PC gaming efforts with a focus on Vista/Win7 exclusives.

Re:Xbox Fiasco Next To Get Axed (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597853)

The entire Entertainment and Devices Division is going to get a massive house cleaning.

I'm sure that MSFT shareholders would hope that's true, but why do you think MS management is suddenly going to get a clue? They've been pouring their shareholders' money down ratholes for quite a few years now.


Mac Business Unit Hiding Xbox Losses (4, Interesting)

MediaStreams (1461187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597949)

I can't imagine what it must be like to work in the Mac Business Unit at Microsoft knowing that all your efforts are going to nothing more than playing accounting games to hide the Xbox disaster.

It is staggering to grasp the magnitude of the Xbox diaster when you look at it:

* Over 4 billion dollars in losses on the first Xbox hardware

* Mac Business Unit moved into the Xbox division to cover up the losses

* Absolute worst and cheapest console hardware ever created with the Xbox 360

* Online fees for everyone playing online games effectively adding 50-150 dollars in extra revenue per console

* Three years on the market

And the E&D division still was only able to post a relatively tiny profit for 2008. Take away the profitable Mac Business Unit, the Xbox online fees, and other profitable parts of the E&D division and the Xbox 360 hardware is obviously still generating huge losses.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597695)

Except for #1, I don't think many of those issues really hit the average consumer except when it was too late - when they already bought it.

In my life, I probably used an iPod for less than 20 minutes and a Zune for less than 15. I like looking at the newer models my friends carry from time to time, and recently had a friend's newer Zune in my hands. It's okay, much better than the sloppy buttons of the 1st gen. What strikes me about the interface - the pad where you can scroll up or down with your thumb - is that it still isn't as easy as the clickwheel on an iPod. It may sound irrelevant, but since this is the one and only way to communicate with the device it does become a big deal.

Otherwise, it's just another Me too! device and with the prices pretty much in the same range as an iPod, there is little incentive to go out and buy one. With an iPod, you at least have iTunes and the like.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (4, Insightful)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597745)

How about:

6: Not available outside North America (presumably because getting the rights for the marketplace agreed was too hard), which then planted the meme that it could only take purchased tracks, rather than "rip your own CD".

7: Marketplace tracks were priced in "points" rather than real money, which meant that the customer needed to pre-load the points ("What, I need to pay for my music in advance! Why can't I just pay when I want it?").

Now, while both of those are incorrect (it could take MP3, and the loading of points could be done at purchase), it gave out the wrong perceptions. And in this game, perception is all.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597773)

1) Apple has a mammoth uphill struggle to capture OS shares from Windows, but it hasn't stopped, has it?
2) Since Apple used DRM it should have failed too, right?
3) No one uses the wifi function. I own a Zune, and don't use it. I didn't even know it was called squirt until now.
4) iPod comes in pink. You have the freedom to choose. You don't like brown, don't get brown. You don't like pink, don't get pink.
5) That was only for the older generation models. It's hard to believe the failure of the Zune was contributed to a hiccup that was from 3 weeks ago. I guess the event timeshifted a few years backwards?

Though all your reason are valid, you're just creating a mountain from a mole hill. They hardly contributed to the low sales of Zune. Apple's grapple on the market caused by their fanboys and all who thinks money can buy status keeps them afloat.

I like how I was able to to pay $90 for a 30 gig 1st generation Zune (when the 2nd generation came out) and upgrade the firmware to have the same functions of the newer models.

I like how I can sync music wireless to my computer with a few clicks on my Zune.

Higher audio quality. Though I'm sure most Microsoft haters will say it doesn't matter, I bet if iPod had higher audio quality, Microsoft haters will claim that as a superior feature.

Bigger screen, higher quality screen. All lines of iPod, except the touch, has a way smaller screen. Good luck watching videos on that.

I've seen the newer Zunes. Its form factor and touch strip gives iPod its run for its money.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (1)

Bake (2609) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597783)

6. Not sold outside USA

Re:this comes as no surprise... (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597791)

I think brown could be an interesting and different colour choice in the hands of someone with a modicum of design flair. If only because it's a relatively uncommon colour for consumer electronics- and things in general- nowadays.

Sure, you can make the obvious comparison, but lots of other things are brown, and it doesn't stop women stuffing their faces with chocolate for example. Personally, I'd have bought the brown Aspire One if I'd been able to get it at the same price as the white model.

The problem is that the Zune looked boring and cheap in the first place and in that situation the brown just made it worse.

As for the DRM, yeah- what a joke. Not that the problem was DRM in itself- it didn't stop Joe Public buying the iPod- but that MS's DRM is a confusing mess. For example, the fact that the mockingly named "Plays for Sure" didn't(!) on the Zune, the fact that- IIRC- they started remarketing such things homogenously as Vista compatible and... I've lost track of WTF they were doing myself.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26598047)

The problem is that the Zune looked boring and cheap in the first place and in that situation the brown just made it worse.

People who say this have never held one. The brown 30gb Zune looks ugly in pictures online, but it's very slick in person.

Re:this comes as no surprise... (5, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597979)

For the most part the Zune had to do in a few years what Apple did over five. When the Zune was released in 2006, Apple had over five years of experience designing and tweaking the iPod. It also had over three years with iTunes. The whole ecosystem of the iPod also had to be replicated. That was/is no small task. Also the history of Microsoft suggests that they take a few iterations to get things usable.

The first Zune wasn't bad. The problem was it wasn't great. To beat the iPod, it had to be substantially better. It only offered a few features that the iPod didn't (bigger screen, Wi-fi, radio, sharing) but also drawbacks. Shared music is extremrely restricted. Zune can't be used as HD. The more desired advantages were trumped by Apple with the iPod touch which features a new multi-touch interface that the Zune still doesn't have.

One of the main reasons the Zune didn't do as well was marketing. MS just didn't get it that their other products sold well because people didn't have a choice. To convince people to buy your product over another requires good marketing. So they went with "We're the underdog; let's market our product that way and we'll seem cool. Let's make our commercials oblique and obscure." To their dismay, people have never considered MS the underdog or cool. Their commercials never presented the viewer with a clear picture of what they were advertising.

Contrast this with the iPhone commercials. In the smartphone market, the iPhone was/is new. They had to get people to buy it over Windows CE and Blackberrys and non-smart phones. There were four original iPhone commercials. Each of them showed that (1) it's a phone, (2) some other function (Google maps, browser, plays media, etc), (3) how it works using the new touch interface, (4) who makes it (Apple), (5) where to get it (Apple or AT&T). Each iPhone commercial fulfilled the role of advertising whereas the Zune commercials left the viewer puzzled as to what the message was.

In these hard economic times, it doesn't help that the division that Zune is in a division has not been very profitable historically. In the last few quarters has the division been in the black. With the MSN and Xbox (and now the Zune), the division has been $7 billion in losses since the Xbox was started. That can't bode well if MS is so worried about the future that they've laid people off for the first time. The Xbox 360 has many more customers and is more popular than the Zune albeit it probably costs more. Most likely the Zune will have to be cut.

It may be folded into the phone devices (3, Interesting)

howardd21 (1001567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597469)

All of this (the article and our posts) are speculation, so as long as we are guessing/gossiping/conjecturing, etc.

Microsoft has indicated that they would prefer less manufacturers and models of Windows mobile based phones, so they can make the OS more tightly integrated with the hardware. There have also been rumors that Zune functionality would be folded into the phone, which tends to make sense. So my guess would be they gracefully lose, er...bow out to the iPod and say they are "providing a great combination to their customers by putting the Zune features into the phone."

Wrong approach... (5, Funny)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597503)

Just rename it the iZune, eZune, or better yet, the ieZune...slap a Vista Capable sticker on it and it can't help selling like hotcakes!

*crickets chirping*
Well, then again, maybe not.

Re:Wrong approach... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597573)

or iClod.

Re:Wrong approach... (5, Insightful)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597885)

No, don't use the "Zune" bit at all, it is tainted. Just do some minor cosmetic adjustments, call it Player 7, and re-release the same thing.

Re:Wrong approach... (1)

monktus (742861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597895)

Or how about the aaaaiiiii!Zune, then reposition it as the dopest, phatestest pimped out music playa for listening to hip hop. Ballmer heard that's what all the cool kids are using their iPods for.

Could try "Windows7 capable" (1)

VampireByte (447578) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597941)

Everybody is all excited about Windows7 and how it's going to be so much better than Vista. So maybe they could try slapping a Windows7 capable sticker on the Zune, or rename it Zune7.

MSFT is still profitable (0, Troll)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597511)

Yet the Harvard grad is following the standard Wall Street pattern of layoffs to bolster stock price. If the Wall Street methods aren't discredited by the crash - apparently Balmer missed it.

The Zune will never be a solid competitor - and innovation has been stifled by the idiots in charge.

Worms and trojans and botnets are the legacy of that kludge Windoze.

Re:MSFT is still profitable (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598029)

While MSFT is profitable, the division the Zune is in has only recently become profitable. But that doesn't recognize the years of heavy losses. So if MSFT is your company and one division is under-performing financially and in the marketplace, you would have to consider cutting some products that aren't doing well. Zune is one of those products.

Re:MSFT is still profitable (1)

MediaStreams (1461187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598135)

The Entertainment and Devices division that makes the Zune and Xbox are't profitable outside of accounting gimmicks.

The Mac Business Unit has been dumped into the division to hide the Xbox fiasco's losses and there are other accounting games going on to add profits to the division.

Even worse for E&D is that even with the accounting games managing to eek out a tiny profit for 2008 it is getting close to the time where if Microsoft is willing to stay in the console market they are going to have to start once again spending the hundreds of millions to billions ramping up new hardware.

A Rockbox port would be awesome (1)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597533)

It would be awesome if the open source Rockbox [] media player firmware was ported to the Zune and could use the "squirt" hardware, but without that nasty DRM.

Re:A Rockbox port would be awesome (3, Insightful)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597571)

This is a good example of Microsoft snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The Zune had pretty good hardware at a reasonable price ... then they put (a) horrible firmware on it (b) THE WORST PC software imaginable for it (c) no way to put your own firmware on.

If they'd made it possible to reflash, a zillion Linux weenies would have bought the devices just to put Rockbox on them.

But no. Obsessive control is so much more important than actual, uh, sales. Remember, it worked for the music industry! Oh wait, it didn't.

Re:A Rockbox port would be awesome (4, Insightful)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597693)

(c) no way to put your own firmware on.

The other points may be valid, but- much as I hate to say it- this is irrelevant for 99.9% of the mass market I assume MS were going for.

If they'd made it possible to reflash, a zillion Linux weenies would have bought the devices just to put Rockbox on them.

No, they probably wouldn't have because it's an MS product.

And the hacker/modder/enthusiast market always overestimates its own importance anyway. Sorry to say this, but you're a relatively tiny percentage. Even if it had been massively successful in that small niche it would still have flopped relative to the mass market iPod.

Nothing wrong with spotting a niche and successfully filling it, of course. However, if your motives- and marketing budget- aim for success with the great unwashed hordes, then niche success is still a flop.

Re:A Rockbox port would be awesome (1)

SendBot (29932) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598255)

If they'd made it possible to reflash, a zillion Linux weenies would have bought the devices just to put Rockbox on them.

No, they probably wouldn't have because it's an MS product.

/me consoles the modded xbox as it sheds a small tear.

Yeah I think the crappy software and restrictive cockteases (oh it has wifi? cool!!), not to mention drm were planned like sending one into no man's land with a blinking traffic cone on their head.

Re:A Rockbox port would be awesome (1)

vrmlguy (120854) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597737)

If they'd made it possible to reflash, a zillion Linux weenies would have bought the devices just to put Rockbox on them.

I hadn't realized that you couldn't reflash a Zune. That's going to make it pretty hard to patch that leap-year bug, don't you think?

Speaking of which, I wonder what their sales figures looked like for the first three weeks of January. After this weekend, sales will definitely tank, but I'm sure somebody at the Harvard Business Review would like to know how many nails that bug put into the coffin.

Re:A Rockbox port would be awesome (2, Insightful)

jeremyp (130771) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597771)

No product aimed at the zillion Linux weenies is ever going to be commercially successful. The reason is that there aren't a zillion Linux weenies. There probably aren't even 100,000 Linux weenies that would buy an MP3 player just so they could reflash it.

Re:A Rockbox port would be awesome (0, Flamebait)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597875)

If they'd made it possible to reflash, a zillion Linux weenies would have bought the devices just to put Rockbox on them.



Hardly Surprising (1)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597541)

especially when it was never sold outside of North America.
If it was such a world beating innovative 'must have' then it should have been available worldwide.

The writing was even on the wall from day 1. What marketing droid said 'sell it in Brown'? Duh?
Then came all the recent lockups.

Come on Microsoft, put the injured beast out of its misery.

And while you are doing that, have another long hard think about launching a DRM crippled Music Download service.
Many of us Elephants have long memories. Does 'Plays for Sure' ring any bells?

It's not just about "cool" (4, Interesting)

indytx (825419) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597549)

It's more about making products people want to buy. How many people really want to buy Microsoft products anymore? When was the last time we heard about people lining up to buy the latest version of Windows? The problem for Microsoft is that it has a hard time making products that excite the vast majority of the public, and they've had a few huge mistakes in public perception lately. The Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death was a just a debacle. They shipped a Zune that was less feature-filled than the then current iteration iPod. Don't get me started on Vista, "Vista Capable," and "Vista Ready," or whatever those stupid stickers said.

Sure, Apple products are cool, but they also work pretty well. Why Microsoft didn't look to Apple's or it's own playbook and more closely linked the Zune to the Windows environment is beyond me. This worked for years with Explorer.

Seriously, Xbox games are "cool." I have an original Xbox, and I have been giving Microsoft my $$$ for several years now for my Xbox Live membership. However, I'm just too stingy to give my money to Microsoft for an Xbox 360 after all the hoopla about failure rates. The race to beat Sony to the market was a failure of vision and an appreciation of paradigm shift. There was a huge market for casual gaming that just wasn't going to be satisfied by the first-person shooter, and Nintendo was able to capture it. We can chalk that up to a happy accident for Nintendo executives, but so what?

If a company tries to be all things to all people, it will be unable to do everything as well as companies that are smaller, more focused, or more nimble. Look at General Motors as example number one. Consumers have too much access to information and too many choices. The problem with Microsoft's executive leadership is that the strategic steps they take are, primarily, reactions to market forces. Then, they are placed in the position of having to respond. Why didn't anyone at Microsoft see that Netbooks might one day become popular and have a version of Vista which would run on them? No one? How long was Intel working on the Atom?

Microsoft stocks are, historically, looking pretty affordable right now, but I'm going to wait. I just don't see any game changing ideas coming out of Redmond. Until, as a company, it starts doing something much better than the competition, it will never rise to its former glory days, and its market share and/or profits will continue to decline.

Re:It's not just about "cool" (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597577)

I really love my Microsoft Natural Keyboard. It really is one of the finest keyboards ever made for those who can type with ten fingers. The only way to make it better would be to put IBM Model M clicky keys on it.

Except they put the '6' on the left-hand cluster, not the right. WHAT.

Re:It's not just about "cool" (5, Informative)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597937)

Really? Because the only phrase in that drivel you just wrote about the zune was wrong "They shipped a Zune that was less feature-filled than the then current iteration iPod." BS! Bigger screen, FM radio, and Wifi. The thing the ipod actually did have that the zune didn't was a shiny surface on the back. That's literallly it. The zune even had better quality audio. Buy music from FM radio? Geat idea.

Re:It's not just about "cool" (1)

springbox (853816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598027)

When was the last time we heard about people lining up to buy the latest version of Windows?

People did this for Vista, but you probably weren't paying attention.

Microsoft UK launches Zune MusicTurd(tm) service (3, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597559)

In a bid to win back profits after huge layoffs worldwide, Microsoft UK has launched Zune MusicTurd(tm) [] for mobile phones.

The highly competitive music store offers tracks at twice the price, DRM-locked to a chosen individual ear of the purchaser. If they can get it to work with their phone. Microsoft were careful to point out to the financial press that charging your account, however, works perfectly and that the helpline number has been connected to a fax machine.

Microsoft is confident the MusicTurd(tm) service will attract millions of people who will buy tracks from them to play on one mobile ever, not transferable to any other device including the same phone's replacement, in preference to stores offering cheaper unlocked MP3s, and won't just drive people to filesharing networks, MP3 blogs or copying 500 gigabyte USB disks full of music from their friends in sheer disgust at these corporate tools.

"We understand that lots of people use telephones they carry around with them these days," said Hugh Griffiths, Microsoft UK head of Mobile, "and you can even play music on them. A bit like a transistor radio. Whatever will they think of next! So if we get the consumer interest, we'll offer an enhanced version, MusicTurd(tm) Polished(tm). Like we're doing with Windows 7. You can't expect it to be any good until the third version, of course. So buy the first two and it'll be fantastic. Trust us on this. We have hundreds of loyal suck, er, customers on the MSN website, I'm sure we can squeeze them until the pips rattle.

"What do you mean, I'm lacking enthusiasm for our product? You'd think I was trying to get redundancy in the next round of layoffs or something. Ha! Ha! What a ridiculous notion."

[Read the original interview [] . Least enthusiastic marketer in history. It was quite hard to outdo.]

[Oh, and have a Zune-Anus logo [] .]

What's the IRR, not "coolness" or even marketshare (1)

magarity (164372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597561)

It doesn't really matter what the market share is compared to what the costs versus revenue the thing is bringing in. OK, with sales that low compared to the iPod it might not be all that great, but there are niche products with lousy market share that have good returns. So that's the real question and the one that the business decision makers at MS will be examining.

What? So Microsoft should give up? No way! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597565)

'Microsoft, by now, should be realizing that it's never going to be as "cool" as Apple, so why waste its time with the Zune where it has no competitive advantage?'"

What are you talking about? The Windows platform was never cooler than Apple's but did Microsoft quit the PC business just because Apple's product was way cooler? No! They should keep hammering on until the market goes their way.

We've seen the same trend when it comes to their IIS web server vs Apache and the rest, Windows Live vs Google/Yahoo.

The battle is on for Silverlight/Moonlight vs Flash, and XPS vs PDF.

Microsoft should not just give up. Wars are never won by giving up battles here and there. They are won when the smarter adversary opens up new fronts with better targeted resources.

Re:What? So Microsoft should give up? No way! (1)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597581)

"They are won when the smarter adversary opens up new fronts with better targeted resources."

e.g. netbooks, which Windows blames their failure to make their numbers this quarter on. i.e., the cold wind of actual competition with Linux. And it's all a completely unintentional side-effect!

Re:What? So Microsoft should give up? No way! (4, Insightful)

malkavian (9512) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597725)

Windows got the market by price, not by opening up new frontiers.. They copied a lot of stuff from the Mac.. Just iimplemented it on a platform that became affordable to more users than the Apple hardware/software.

Then their 'hammering away' wasn't actually technical; they employed marketing campaigns, misinformation, and even error messages in their products to scare people away from competition (c.f. the old messages in windows 3 when you ran it on a competing DOS)..

MS doesn't (historically) play the 'competition' game.. It plays scorched earth tactics. Find a market it wants to play in.. Throw endless money at it, pushing products out for less than a commercial competitor in only that market can afford (c.f. IE vs Netscape, and other similar events in other markets). Wait until said competitor is dead, then lock it in, and perhaps charge more for the product afterwards, or let it stagnate and put no further development in, killing the development of a whole market.

In the iPod battle, it's Apple, not Microsoft, which pushes to new areas (all the functionality of the iPod touch, the ease of use, so on, so forth).. MS had the almost killer app in there with their wireless sharing, but with its limitations, nobody would have been that enthused about it..

So, MS did their usual "throw money at it, and see what sticks", Apple did design work, and targetted their resources and worked out what people would want to see..
There's a point at which you decide to cut your losses and run. MS have been trounced solidly on all fronts on this one. Now that MS seem to actually have to worry about money (wonder how much they lost in the market crashes), seems this loss maker that isn't going anywhere soon would be a good cut, rather than other areas that actually make a profit.

Wars are won (or at least not completely lost) by not fighting on too many fronts, especially ones where you're getting solidly thrashed by overwhelming opposition. Sometimes a ceasefire, or strategic withdrawl can save the whole show, rather than throwing everything you have in every direction.

Re:What? So Microsoft should give up? No way! (2, Insightful)

Alioth (221270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597813)

PCs for the most part aren't about fashion. PCs, for the most part, are for businesses and should be boring and un-distracting (and part of the problem with Vista is they forgot this, and blinged it out at the expense of hardware).

As well as administering Linux and BSD systems, I also admin a couple of Win2K3 servers. I sort of like Win2K3, because it's crushingly boring and just gets the job done. Once I've set up the scripting environment how I like it, I hardly notice it's there. That's how a business OS should be. Windows should be dull, and prior to Vista it was dull and that's why businesses liked it - stick XP on your AD domain, and begone Teletubbies theme. It should fade into the background. It should not be giving me an "experience" (how I hate that word when applied to an OS). At most, 3D and transparency effects should be subtle and a visual cue to the eye, not yelling "HEY LOOK AT ME, I DO TRANSPARENCY AND 3D EFFECTS!!!111eleventyone", like Vista does. Ironically, the fashion-sensitive Apple people do better in this respect than Windows. Ubuntu does better too in this respect.

But music players are another kettle of fish - for the most part they ARE fashion driven. Release a fashion disaster like the Zune promoted by a sweaty fashion disaster like Ballmer who uses the word "squirt" in relation to it, and you have a failure.

Why waste time with the zune? (1)

sleeponthemic (1253494) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597579)

A better question is, why waste time reading an article that has half the story. What sort of "pundit" makes predictions based on that sort of information? The entire thing hinges on PROFIT, which is skillfully avoided throughout that piece. Assumably, this isn't an xbox situation, surely these devices are not being sold at a loss.

Re:Why waste time with the zune? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597711)

Well, I think you know the answer to that.

They would have sold more Zunes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597595)

...if they'd actually sold the damn things outside of North America. Serves you fucking right Microsoft!

Re:They would have sold more Zunes... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597889)

Given the success of the iPod world-wide, why would you assume that Zune would have done any better in the rest of the world?


So the revenue from iPods fell 3%... (2, Interesting)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597659)

Why not compare revenue to revenue, or sales to sales?

Re:So the revenue from iPods fell 3%... (4, Informative)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598137)

iPod sales (22.7 million) went up 3%, revenue ($3.3 billion) was down 16% compared to last year. That would suggest more people were buying this year but were buying the cheaper models compared to last year.

Zune on the other hand drop 54% in revenue ($100 million) due to drop in sales. There's no other breakdowns. Considering the whole division was profitable by only $151 million and the Xbox made up $135 million of that, the Zune doesn't generate much profit for MS whereas the iPod is substantial money maker for Apple.

Had to remind myself what a Zune looked like. UGLY (0, Troll)

upuv (1201447) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597719)

I read this story. Then it occurred to me that I have never ever seen a "Zune" in the wild. I didn't even know what it's catchy logo was. I mean I had a complete blank on this brand.

So I head over to the site. I'm having a hard time believing that pathetic site is the suppose to be a hip trendy site. I'm also stunned at how UGLY that device is.

I'm no graphic/industrial artist but I'm 100% positive I could come up with a better logo and device form factor than this.

Did I mention that it's F-UGLY.

MS what were you thinking when you green lighted this thing?

Yah can it. Just admit it you stuffed this up and move on.

Re:Had to remind myself what a Zune looked like. U (4, Funny)

David Gerard (12369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597749)

I don't see what anyone could possibly think was wrong with the Zune logo [] .

Re:Had to remind myself what a Zune looked like. U (1)

upuv (1201447) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597777)

I like it!

Walmart* (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598287)

I don't see what anyone could possibly think was wrong with the Zune logo

Neither did Walmart* [] .

Doomed from the start (4, Insightful)

line-bundle (235965) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597735)

It was doomed from the start and here is why. Most MS products do not stand on their own. They are either riding on someone's coattails initially or shoved down people's throats (e.g. DOS and office and explorer). This is usually through corporate sales which a bribeable. Zune had to stand on it's own but had no legs.

Re:Doomed from the start (1)

Alomex (148003) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598057)

They are either riding on someone's coattails initially or shoved down people's throats

There you go. They should have shipped a zune device with every copy of microsoft windows, and had they done so by now they would own the digital music player market.

Zune had to stand on it's own

That was their tragic mistake. The poor thing never had a chance. If only they had bundled it with windows. There's still time to bundle an XBox 360 with every copy of Microsoft Windows 7 though.

Enterprise keeping Microsoft afloat (1)

javacowboy (222023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597753)

Aside from Windows on consumer PCs (which includes gaming PCs), Microsoft's consumer-facing businesses have either lost tons of money or have broken even.

What keeps Microsoft as a going concern is its enterprise customers. Businesses are generally slow to adopt new technology (there are exceptions, of course), and Microsoft has benefited from that fact. With Windows, Office, Exchange, SQLServer, ActiveDirectory, Sharepoint, IE-only intranet applications, not to mention the large number of Windows-only speciality applications, etc, they are firmly entrenched in the enterprise.

However, once somebody offers an affordable, standards-compliance, and possible open-source Exchange + ActiveDirectory alternative to small and medium sized businesses, then Microsoft's enterprise business will start to get chizelled away.

First sink money and then lay off the best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597769)

It's the very nature of Microsoft to sink tons of money into hopeless ventures and to compensate for the losses by axing some of their coolest projects and some of their best-motivated workforce. Remember the closure of Bungie Studios (Halo series) and the ACES tream (Flight Simulator series).

So they're effectively shooting themselves into both feet.

Re:First sink money and then lay off the best. (1)

therealmorris (1366945) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598139)

If I'm honest, can't say I do remember the closure of Bungie. Nice to see they can still make games when they're closed though (Halo 3: ODST)

Cherry topping (1)

ThePhilips (752041) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597819)

And as cherry topping to the Zune's EOB they need to shutdown their DRM servers along with it...

What would again prove that they do not get how to deal with customers directly.

What the heck? (3, Interesting)

kenh (9056) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597851)

The idea of the original posting that since MS "only" sold $100M of the devices last year they'll leave the market? Or is it that they'll leave the market because the successful iPod line is eating their lunch? Or is is because we all agree the Zune isn't "cool"?

MS has many lines of business that are under $100M in annual revenue, yet they continue on in those markets, despite not being #1 - I'm thinking keyboards, mice, MS Home Server, etc.

The Zune is a fine piece of hardware, despite the recent bru-ha-ha over the particular model that couldn't handle leap year, and I suspect that MS will lower their investment in Zune hardware development, focus on differentiation on the software side, and (likely) focus on the "self-ripped" MP3 market (as opposed to the $0.99 per-song download market.

A $100M revenue company selling MP3 devices that are tailored to the Windows platform should be a no-brainer, and I believe MS will turn it around. Having said that, my family has all iPods, despite most of our computers running windows...

Re:What the heck? (0)

fwr (69372) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598003)

$100M in revenue isn't actually all that much. Not when you consider all of the salary and overhead costs (benefits, taxes, buildings and office space) just to employ all of the people in the group that makes the Zune. Plus, it also has to cover the cost of making the devices, as this isn't profit. Either that, or the information provided is not accurate...

Re:What the heck? (1)

MediaStreams (1461187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598017)

Most likely the fact that in two recent interviews the CEO of the company was talking about the Zune hardware in the past tense.

Re:What the heck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26598059)

Microsoft isn't helping the issue by only offering one way to sync the Zune: running the Zune software on a Windows computer. Sure the Windows OS has the lion's share of the market place, but the majority of Mac and *Nix users are goto people for those who aren't in the know. What are they going to recommend for a music player?

Re:What the heck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26598155)

The zune is a perfectly capable device when used just like every other Microsoft product - not for its intended purpose.

The intention with Windows is that you buy their software on their system. How many people do that? The reason why I like Windows is because I'm not locked into one choice, or even paying for it. For the same reason that there are a multitude of viruses for Windows platforms, there exist many programs for every possible task. I would be the first to argue that Macs are a better all-around system, but when you take into account the user base and the overall support from free and questionable markets, Windows wins.

  If the option of using mp3s wasn't such a major selling point, I guarantee that neither system would have it. I own a Zune, but my family has owned at one time or another over 6 Ipods coming from 4 model variations. I don't like the Ipod because I don't think my choice in consumer electronics should alter my social circles, the scroll wheel doesn't do it for me, and my experience with the Itunes software was a collection of problems. So I chose the Zune.

Similarly, the Zune was created, just like the Ipod, to help sell music through their store. I chose a Zune, but I didn't choose the Zune's marketplace. I get my music where every self-respecting person does; the internet (and, you know, cd stores). And once you do that, you realize that there really isn't much that separates a zune from an Ipod short of the monicker of being 'cool.'

Plus it doesn't have some stupid annoying popup that prompts me to download the latest version

Re:What the heck? (3, Interesting)

spisska (796395) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598293)

The idea of the original posting that since MS "only" sold $100M of the devices last year they'll leave the market?

According to TFA, Zune revenue wasn't $100M, the drop in Zune revenue was $100M, which is a 54% fall.

By extrapolation, this suggests that last year's revenue was around $185M and this year's around $85M.

MS has many lines of business that are under $100M in annual revenue, yet they continue on in those markets, despite not being #1 - I'm thinking keyboards, mice, MS Home Server, etc.

That may be, but it's not a question of revenue but of margin. Keyboards and Mice (which MS makes quite well) are quite likely moderately profitable lines. But doubling profit on them (or elimintating them altogether) would have no effect on MS' botom line.

There is no way the Zune is even close to profitable based on these sales numbers, and based on various figures that have come out concerning Zune development.

It doesn't cost that much (relatively) to spec out, manufacture, and rebrand Logitech hardware. It does cost a lot to design, develop, distribute, promote, and maintain a device and platform like the Zune. $85M, or even $100M a year is not going to cut it, particularly when the market has spoken and given MS a much smaller piece of a rapidly growing pie.

The Zune is a fine piece of hardware, despite the recent bru-ha-ha over the particular model that couldn't handle leap year [...]

The Ford Pinto was also a fine piece of automotive design, despite the bru-ha-ha over the particular model that couldn't handle a rear-end collision without exploding.

It's isn't that the Zune is a bad product or poor design. It's that it isn't cheaper, better, easier, faster, or more convenient than the alternatives. You can argue all you want, but the market has spoken quite clearly on this point.

A $100M revenue company selling MP3 devices that are tailored to the Windows platform should be a no-brainer, and I believe MS will turn it around.

This is a concept I've never been able to understand. Why on earth would someone want to make (or buy) a device that only works on one platform, when similar devices work with any?

Particularly when there is little the manufacturer needs to do to ensure cross-platform compatibility. How much did Apple contribute to the development (or suppression) of Gtkpod?

The fact is that MS' Entertainment (or whatever they're calling it today) division has been a money-sink from day one -- full of confusion, odd rebranding decisions, failed initiatives, conflicting projects, lack of focus, and several hardware fiascos -- most notably the XB360's red-ring-of-death and the Zune's leap-second crash.

If I was a MS shareholder (and hadn't sold out long ago when they stopped performing), I would be apoplectic about a lot of these initiatives.

There is a time to cut your losses, consolidate your position, and focus on what you do well. MS has never been able to do this and I doubt they will start now, although in the case of Zune (and probably MSN) it would be the wise thing.

Committment? (1)

seven of five (578993) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597893)

If MS really wants to go for it, they have enough cash to ride out any downturn. They can re-tweak the Zune design till it clicks with the public.

This happened before with Windows CE and Palm. Palm had a solid lock on the handheld market, but MS kept dogging them, and Palm kept screwing up, till MS overtook them in the market.

This discussion sounds like pure pundit BS. I still find it hard to believe that MS chose to lay off staff, with all the money they have laying around. 'Tis the season, I guess.

Zune is much better than iPod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26597897)

I have had both a Zune 80 and an iPod (also 80gb), and i have to say that hands down i prefer the zune. The Zune has everything that the ipod does, plus a bigger screen, wifi (with all it's benefits like sending songs and syncing wirelessly)better battery life, and FM radio support. Seeing as the zune and ipod are the same price, why WOULDN'T you pick the zune?

To argue both sides here, there are some drawbacks... i am not the biggest fan of the Zune software, although i have successfully gotten mine to sync with Songird, so that eliminates the software aspect of it. However, because this has only worked on windows for me (and the zune software only works on windows) it can only sync with windows, which puts a damper on me because i am a mac/linux kinda guy...

All in all, i think the zune is great and while microsoft has not done a lot to press it, it could become a massive competitor to the ipod... provided microsoft is willing to spend some of it's billions of dollars on marketing the damn thing...

Re:Zune is much better than iPod (3, Informative)

w00d (91529) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598129)

Agreed. People who badmouth the Zune have either never owned one (the "lol zune sux!" crowd), or have only used the original 30 GB model (aka Toshiba Gigabeat) with 1.x firmware. The second gen Zunes are fantastic and I have never regretted buying one (80 GB model) after owning several generations of iPods.

I love the FM radio as I listen to NPR at work. I love the wireless sync and marketplace, which EVERY Zune model can use, but only the iPod Touch and iPhone are able to do. I love the big, vertically-oriented screen. I love the clean navigation menus on the device. I love the ZunePad, which is quicker and way more intuitive to use than the gimmicky Click Wheel.

I also really love the Zune software. It made me appreciate just how bad iTunes really is, which most seem to be in denial about, but ignorance is bliss as they say. I have every intention of buying another Zune when this one no longer serves my purposes.

If people would get over their prejudices about Microsoft and actually try the Zune, I'm sure they would be impressed by it. MS even deleted their own name from the product (it appears only at the bottom of the "About" screen) because of the popular belief that MS can't put out a "cool" product.

tl;dr: zune > ipod

Re:Zune is much better than iPod (2, Interesting)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598133)

Seeing as the zune and ipod are the same price, why WOULDN'T you pick the zune?

Because there are a lot more accessories and add-ons available for the iPod.

The iPod got off to a good start in terms of market share, which led to more accessories being made for it, which no doubt influenced more people to buy it.... classic positive feedback loop. It's like the OS market back in the 90s, in reverse-- there, Windows ruled the roost and the Mac was a tiny, shrinking niche. Walk into a CompUSA back then, and nearly everything on the shelves was for Windows. The Mac section was three shelves in literally the farthest corner of the store from the entrance.

With the Zune, instead of being the 800-pound gorilla in a given market, Microsoft is finding out how much fun it is to have to compete against that gorilla.


I actually own a Zune, and like it! (1, Interesting)

rcoxdav (648172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597965)

I will admit, I own a Zune. I got an 8GB model for Christmas this year (and yes, that is what I asked for). I have used iTunes (my Mother in law has an iPod) and the Zune software. I found the Zune software much more user friendly than iTunes and less bloated. The hardware seems solid, it has fast response, is easy to navigate, and good sound quality. I would be sad to see Microsoft drop the Zune line.

Too many people in the world are oblivious to the fact that there are other options except for an iPod. My wife has a 5 year old Creative Zen 8GB (HD based) that still works fine, and for Christmas she got a 16GB xFi model. We are happy with them. I just with more people would give them a chance.

I think the thing Apple really got right with the iPod is the marketing, and ease of buying songs (though the Zune market place is easy also, and you can buy songs from the Zune if you have WiFi setup on it). I do not think the controls are anything revolutionary, as Creative had a similar control theme before Apple. However, I think that iPod is as synonymous with MP3/portable media players as the name Xerox is with copiers (or at least used to be). I think over time it will change to where the iPod is no longer the dominant player, but it will take time.

Re:I actually own a Zune, and like it! (2, Interesting)

Svet-Am (413146) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598161)

Until very recently, I owned and _LOVED_ a first generation Zune 30.

The Zune software makes iTunes look like an Excel spreadshet, is much lighter weight than iTunes, and includes features (group mix) that I actually like and used.

Eventually, though, I sold my Zune 30 because I was tired of having to hack it to get it work with my installation of Windows XP x64. I'll never understand why Microsoft intentionally left XP x64 out in the cold, but they did so I had to move on.

I replaced it with a Toshiba Gigabeat S60, so I essentially still have my Zune, with an upgraded hard disk size and minus the WiFi (which I rarely used anyway).

If Microsoft made the Zune compatible with XP x64 (officially), I'd be a Zune owner again in a heartbeat!

Apple exiting iPod classic market (3, Funny)

sheldon (2322) | more than 5 years ago | (#26597993)

Seriously, I've been amazed at watching the ipod over the years. They came up at 40 gig and it was quite remarkable. I bought an 80 gig model about 2 years ago when they had introduced those. But now you go to the stores and it's hard to buy a classic. They are pushing the nano.

That's usually the first sign of a product hitting it's peak in the business cycle. When they stop caring about the consumer, and start pushing the models which have the highest profit.

If I were MS, I'd stay in this market. Apple hasn't changed the ipod fundamentally since they introduced the color screen and videos.

This has been bugging me for a while (1)

JamesRose (1062530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598009)

Why can I buy 8 gig of microSD card for £30 but no manufacturer will sell me an mp3 player with 8 gig more capacity for £30 more? Is there a reason for this? Or are they just fixing prices.

Have an idea for Microsoft's next Zune (1)

maynard (3337) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598037)

Hey, MS - try this out for size!

The next time you want to release a product in a market already saturated by a single large a and very popular competitor, try competing not on the coolness factor but on price/performance. You know, make the product "cheaper" with the same or better "features". If you can't do that, perhaps you don't have a value proposition to offer your potential customers. And if so, you shouldn't be surprised when they buy your competitor's product.

I know, sucks when you have to compete in a fair and free market - don't it?

Obligatory Bad Pun Thread (2, Funny)

Dystopian Rebel (714995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598053)

"Gee, gone so zune?"

MS saw this coming... (1)

acedotcom (998378) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598077)

They have always said that the Zune was a "long term Strategy". The biggest reason their sales are down is because of last years 30GB zune Price chopping. Even CNet said [] that they met their internal numbers. Fact is that Microsoft isn't trying to replace the ipod, and even if they are, so what? at least Apple has a competent competitor for their products instead of just a bunch of $29.99 Coby MP3 crappers from walgreens.

Fucking bravo, Microsoft. (5, Interesting)

pslam (97660) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598089)

That means Microsoft have not only managed to damage to MP3 market to the extent that Apple "won", but now they're dropping out too. If I weren't convinced they were just short-term reactionary fools I would believe they had it planned all along.

What am I going on about? Well, you see, back in the days just after iPod, Microsoft introduced this thing called PlaysForSure. It was a system to provide a variety of DRM options - single track purchase, promotion with timeout, monthly fee all-you-can-eat, limited play count, and so on. This in itself would have provided a superset of the functionality iTunes provided.

(For the record, where I stand: DRM must die. Three times. Horribly. Preferably acid bath.)

Sounds great, at least from a technical and business standpoint, right? Unfortunately, just to remind us that they're Microsoft, in order to get a PlaysForSure badge on your product, and to be allowed to use the system whatsoever, you have to pass certain certification processes. That includes making sure you have a good startup time, good inter-track delay time, fast database indexing, and so on.

Still sounds great? Aha, but just to remind us they're Microsoft, they're the people that design the protocol, and they make damn sure it's near-impossible to actually implement a good player from it. The database updates and queries are so horribly defined you'd struggle to get good performance out of a proper SQL-like database running on a PC, let alone a tiny little device with 1MB RAM. The requirement to support PlaysForSure means you must use MTP protocol, which is another botched abortion of a protocol. It also requires that if you use MTP you cannot use Mass Storage, further annoying your customers and very neatly if "accidentally" meaning they don't work on Macs. And then there's the encryption itself which is so horribly over-the-top and poorly implemented (you MUST use Microsoft's libraries) that it badly impacts player performance and its battery life.

So Microsoft screw the entire non-Apple MP3 market for a couple of years. Then they bring out their own PlaysForSure player. Except it's not PlaysForSure. You can imagine the language used where I worked (and presumably other companies). They decided that it was too hard to implement their own spec, so they make a player which doesn't comply to it. It's not even in the set at all - it's totally incompatible.

After an electronics-generation of fucking up the non-Apple MP3 market, then screwing up their own solution, and now after (very likely) ditching Zune, they've basically done almost exactly the right set of steps to put Apple into a lead that will be hard to make a dent into.

I stick with my decade old opinion that you don't partner with Microsoft - you watch your back.

Re:Fucking bravo, Microsoft. (1)

sizzzzlerz (714878) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598181)

Somebody with some mod points, mod this up to spot on.

Hoist by your own petard (2, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598169)

It was all about DRM, and non compatible players, and near monopoly status. MS could not really complain because it has been playing this game for years, with, for example,the embrace and extend HTML. Then there is the random changes in format. This worked well for MS Office, as it forced everyone to move from one version to the next, but did not do any good for the Zune when MS decided that it would randomly develop a new DRM system and ignore playforsure. Then, as it was feeling the pressure of competition, it followed the drop of support for IE on Mac with the non release of Zune Drivers for Mac.

So, MS only drivers, no Playforsure support and no Apple protected ACC support. Of course of this would have been a non issue if MS supported universal standards(a media player does not need customer drivers if it is just treated as removable drive) and if MS focused on DRM free music. In fact the primary driver that kept Apple in the forefront for so long is the music industry insistence on DRM and the computer industries support of that position. We will see how apple fares now that Amazon has cheaper drm free music, but I think Apple will be ok now that people are used to used going to iTunes.

But I don't think that MS has to exit the market, just remember that the pupose of MS is to provide the low cost option. The Xbox is successful because it is the cheaper than a PS3, as the xbox has no HD media capability. The Zune is not cheaper than any iPod, except for the touch, so why buy it. If a PC were as expensive than the mac, how many people would buy it? Sell a zune for $100, and it will be on the top of the charts, just like the xbox. Or they could do something innovative and include wireless cell phone access, like the Kindle, and inlcude one year of subscription service. But that would innovative, not what MS does.

I admire Microsoft's tenacity (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598209)

Just because "there were plenty of people suggesting Microsoft should just exit the Zune hardware business entirely," just because the Zune has nothing in particular to offer and is doing poorly, does not mean that they will exit the Zune business.

One of the things I really admire about Microsoft is their tenacity and stick-to-it-iveness. If they think something is important, they'll stick with it and improve it with each release.

I worked at a former Fortune 500 company that just didn't have this tenacity. They had no real strategy, no sense of what was important and what wasn't beyond short-term industry buzz. Their basic strategy seemed to be "do whatever IBM was doing a year ago." And, whereever they drilled, if they didn't strike oil ten feet down they'd give up.

It was very frustrating to those of us who saw serious but fixable flaws in their hastily-released products and could never convince them to settle on what was important and hang in there.

Whether this will be the case with Zune is open to doubt. I have little respect for the Zune, I don't think Microsoft has any idea what they're doing, and I think it will go down as an ignominious failure like Microsoft Bob. But if they think it's important, I believe they'll stick with it and try to improve it, and when they do they have an impressive track record of getting something good enough to be counted a success.

They could uncripple the Zune, give it the ability to record FM broadcasts, provide unlimited wireless filesharing, and they'd have an overnight success... if they had the guts.

Don't get it - compelling product/service (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26598239)

I don't get it - while the Zune device might not have the "cool" factor of an iPod, IMO it's a very competitive product and the service is much better than Apple's. It would be a shame to see it go.

For less than $15/month you can download 10 songs w/o DRM for free and you own them. Paying less than $5/month for access to millions of other songs w/DRM for as long as you maintain the subscription seems like a good deal to me. They've supported firmware for older devices, which is compelling considering your device likely will be supported for generations to come.

Even if they can't beat Apple in market share, it seems like their should be enough of a market to support being #2.

Zune suks (0, Redundant)

gluliverk (1398195) | more than 5 years ago | (#26598277)

Zune really suks :(
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