Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Zuny Tunes -- fine print written by nitwits undermines Microsoft's wannabe iPod-killer

"In Reviews, you must only reference the name of the device and service(s) in the following ways: Zune, Zune device, Zune Marketplace, Zune software,, and not the Zune Reviewer Kit." -- Microsoft Zune reviewer's agreement

Sorry, Microsoft -- this is not a review, I never got one of your Zune Reviewer's Kits, and so I can make all the dumb puns I want about your wannabe iPod-killer. The name is part of the problem. The words iPod and iTunes are variations of recognizable words that point to real things. What's a Zune? What does it point to? Nothing. Plus, it rhymes with all kinds of things you probably don't want to rhyme with, including your competitor's dominant and highly successful music marketplace. Not smart. Downright Zuny (sorry).

The quote from the reviewer's agreement is from John C. Dvorak's comments in PC Magazine -- "Zoon Swoon: Microsoft's music player has no future." In his view, the legalistic sludge the review version comes soaked in serves as handwriting on the wall all by itself.
All I can tell you is that when the marketing process is hijacked by the legal department of any company, this sort of annoyance appears. It usually appears because a company is getting freaky cautious, and a typical corporate hack lawyer will always suggest the most outrageous precautions. These lawyers were not around when Microsoft was running roughshod over the industry, and now when Microsoft tries to do something new they crop up with what can only be described as an idiotic document. It actually makes no sense.

In fact, to get any attention for the Zune, Microsoft should be maniacally seeding review units to anyone with a pulse, including bloggers. But no. This is yet another indicator that Zune will fail miserably -- a clear marker. It will be a matter of time before this legal-driven creeping negative marketing impact will strangle the entire company. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is too busy buying hotel chains to even notice this sort of lunacy.
Dean Takahashi at the San Jose Mercury News looks at product features and thinks it may eventually catch on, given the market power Microsoft can bring to bear over the long run. But first, there's some consumer-unfriendly fine print the company may want to work on.
Sharing a song is easy and it can ``spark a conversation,'' says Zune product manager Matt Jubelirer. Within a couple minutes of charging my two Zune players, I was sharing a song. But it's not a lasting relationship. Each song you share lasts for only three plays or three days on your friend's Zune.

And if you share a song with a friend, you can never share that same song with that friend again. To me that is a lame concession to the music studios, not the rights of users.


To buy songs, you spend points that you must purchase in $5 increments, a system that is similar to the e-commerce model on the Xbox 360 but annoying compared to the convenience of using your credit card to buy songs on iTunes for 99 cents. Deceptively, Microsoft sells its songs for 79 points, but it costs you 99 cents to accumulate that many points.
Takahashi suggests waiting for versions 2.0 or 3.0. I don't know. Will there ever be a version 3.0? Microsoft wanted to hit a home run against the iPod, and this doesn't seem to be it.

Three tries is often what it takes Microsoft to get it right. But getting corporations to standardize on an operating system or a suite of office software is one thing. It's another to ask consumers to switch music players, giving up the sizable investment in time and money they've already made in music for their iPod.

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