23
Jul
06

Coming “Zune” – More Details Emerge From Engadget, Gizmodo and Billboard

zunenewlogo.jpgThose boys from Engadget and Gizmodo have done it again. Well, them and Billboard Magazine. Apparently Microsoft is going the way they did with the Origami Project. They have a “viral” website up at www.comingzune.com with a rather odd animated video involving a creepy looking guy petting a rabbit. Don’t believe me? Check it out for youself. Very creepy stuff. And it says almost nothing about the device — but I’m totally digging the song! (For anyone who wants to know, it’s Us by Regina Spektor. I’ve been singing it all day — can’t get it out of my head!)

(Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn out to be the big letdown that the last viral website related product was — the Origami!)

Here are links to the Engadget and Gizmodo posts filling in the blanks on the upcoming iPod contender, the Zune:

Zune Officially Announced

Zune: What we know, think we know, and don’t yet know

OK, now that Engadget, Gizmodo and Billboard have provided us with more details, let’s make sense of them and see if we can figure this thing out! (By the way, those Engadget kids are amazing. Check out their somewhat-weekly podcast if you get a chance. Great stuff.)

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The Name “Zune” – confirmed. – Well, apparently Zune it is. I don’t see this as a great thing. I’ve already expressed my feelings about the name. But as we’ve established in the previous posts, a great device can totally trump a bad name.

The first device is launching….this year?! – Wow, I guess Robert Scoble doesn’t have the inside track on everything Microsoft. I thought after hearing him, the ex-Microsoft guy, say next year in his post that it was pretty much golden to assume a 2007 launch. Not so, says Engadget. Maybe it’s part of the effort to overshadow the PS3? Hmm, might work. But it could backfire if PS3 madness ensues. This is going to be a very croweded 2006 holiday season.

Multiple Devices? – Well, apparently the Zune will be a “family of hardware and software products.” This somewhat goes against my thoughts that in order to have true success, you’d want to limit the product line somewhat. Whether this means vastly different form factors (i.e. one device shaped like an iPod and another shaped like a PSP) or if it just means different hardware specs (Zune 60GB vs. Zune 30GB) is not clear. Regardless, they’d want to limit the variation as to minimize customer confusion about which Zune to buy. Also, I don’t think it was wise to mention that “The first Zune device will be launched this year, with more devices to come in 2007.” This only tells some folks to possibly wait for the landscape to develop in 2007.

Collaboration. Smart move! – We also learn that collaboration is a big part of this product line. This means lots of online sharing of music using the device. Well, they were thinking way ahead of me when I mentioned this was key in the article. Apparently this was the plan from the start. Here’s the quote from the Engadget post, which says this comes straight from the billboard article:

That scenario is to provide ubiquitous access to digital media from a wide range of Windows-powered devices in what ultimately aspires to be one part MySpace, one part iTunes and one part Xbox Live.”

Smart move, folks. No mention of MSN Spaces, but instead talking about MySpace, which the people understand.

Zune will have a new store and will NOT be PlaysForSure compatible – I got hate mail when I said MSN Music and PlaysForSure was a failure. Well, if this doesn’t say it, nothing does. The Zune is definitely going to have a totally separate music store. Initially it will be music only but video will follow. I think this is an incredibly smart move. Yes, it may seem silly to abandon a store that already has a catalog, but from a marketing standpoint, you want to associate the new device as far away from the current crop of PlaysForSure devices as possible. Engadget is even predicting that the MSN Music Store will “whither and die away”. (Their words, not mine.)

Zune will be Hard-Drive based – Sounds good, but let’s see how they price this. Remember, pricing is key.

Zune will have Wi-Fi – Sounds great. This is the competitive advantage against the iPod that I talked about. What nobody really knows now is whether Apple has the same thing planned. Not likely, but you never know. Who knew we were getting video last year? But realistically all rumors point to the inclusion of a full-length movie store as part of Apple’s immediate plans. Wi-Fi would raise all sorts of DRM related issues that they might not have thought through yet (and apparently Microsoft has — from the ground up.)

The Xbox Team of Robbie Bach and Jay Allard are part of the development team – We already knew this, but I think this should make those who are rooting for the device’s success happy, as these guys seem to be on the cutting edge of the user experience.

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Everything else on the article is Engadget’s speculation about “what they think they know.” This includes things like the fact that the Zune will have a November release, it will come in different colors, it’s going to have a Super Bowl commercial, and accessories will be available at launch.

One key detail that Engadget also mentioned was the fact that there is a Nano competitor, codenamed “Pyxis”, which would have video capability. Hmmm.

All in all, I would say that the folks in Redmond are thinking this thing out well. Only thing that worries me is the mention of several devices and more to come in the future. You want to be extra careful when launching a new product about saying, “there’s better stuff coming!” One of the things that Apple has done to build confidence in the consumer is tell you exactly what is available now. (I’m certain when the iPod photo was released, the video playing iPod was nearing completion. But you don’t tell people you have better stuff — or they might just wait for it.)

Also, I’m not crazy about offering the player in too many different colors. Nothing at all wrong with choice, but I think in the early stages of marketing a brand, you’d want to focus on buring an image into people’s brains. Too many colors and you lose the distinctness of the image. We’ll see if I’m wrong next year this time.

What an exciting time to be a techie! Comments? I’d love to hear ’em. You know where to leave ’em.

Image courtesy of Engadget. Zune details courtesy of Engadget and Gizmodo.

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