The Zune Misfire

by F.

Another sucky product from my former employer. Let’s face it: good design is just not part of the Microsoft culture, which is far more autistic than artistic. I generally trust Steven Levy’s assessments and his bottom line on Zune is this:

Credible in many ways, but half-baked in others. Overall, not nearly compelling enough to stop you from visiting one of the Apple retail stores this season. Expect many more sleepless nights in Redmond.

One of the Zune oddities:

As in the Xbox Live service, the Zune Marketplace doesn’t use money, one uses “points” which you buy a chunk at a time, like choice-deprived mine workers at a company store. The exchange rate of points to cents is skewed so that the 79 points required to buy a song calculates to 99 cents. This seems like a slimy way to make it seem like you’re getting a bargain.

Since Microsoft copied so much of the iPod system, why did it vary from the common-sense iTunes Store practice of using real money and debiting your credit card as you rack up your purchases? (A Microsoft spokesperson gave me two reasons. One, to make it easier for Microsoft to handle international currencies—though somehow Apple manages to do this without a problem. Two, to maintain compatibility with the Xbox system, a consideration that music customers don’t care about.)

Sad. The rest of his review is here. BusinessWeek also calls the Zune a failure:

The Zune will be seen for what it is: a me-too product that is expressing Microsoft’s envy at not being cool. It will carve out its own niche of the market, but by this time next year, it will be considered a dismal failure.

As usual, the Microsoft strategy is to use monopoly rents in Windows/Office to subsidize this piece of junk for another decade. Will it work this time? We’ll see.