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Apple Overload and Zune Confusion

swingers.jpgI’m tired of reading about Apple’s ho-hum iTV announcement. And the Microsoft Zune strategy is incomprehensible. I don’t want the new PG-13 Microsoft that everyone likes. I want the old, evil, R-rated Microsoft you’re not sure you like.

The amount of ink spilled about the (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT) Zune announcements earlier this week was nauseating. The WSJ has the best summary. If you can take more, read on.

First impression of the Apple iTV media extender– what marketing guy cooked up the term ‘near-DVD’ quality? What does that mean?

If I am going to go through the trouble of buying and provisioning a media extender for my TV, it better do HD. The venn diagram of people who will go through the trouble to install a media extender and don’t care about picture quality is a null set.

Both the Xbox 360 and the new Tivo series 3 can do HDTV. Once Microsoft decides to do movie and TV downloads through the Xbox Live service to the embedded hard drives of XBOX 360’s (which, by the way, only cost $100 more than the Apple media extender), why would anyone want the Apple service? It’s about being able to access your media in a platform independent way, and Microsoft should have the upper hand here, given they control more platforms than anyone.

OK, I’ve got my Vista PC, and the bundled Windows Media Player 11, I have my URGE music subscription service, I have my Xbox 360 which can serve as a media extender, and I have my Xbox Live subscription. Great! Now, I can buy a Zune, and it interfaces via wifi with my Xbox and my Vista PC and my URGE service so I can go mobile. Right? Wrong.

It appears Zune is YET ANOTHER independent brand from Microsoft. Rather than concentrate their firepower on a few brands, like Xbox and Media Player, and leverage those users into Music, Microsoft has chosen to spawn a new software portal called “Zune Marketplace” where Microsoft points can be spent to buy music (what are these? Are they the same as Xbox credits? Why not?). What happened to Windows Media Player? The URGE online service? The millions of Xbox LIVE subscribers? Why start from scratch? Raise your hand if you are confused too.

An in depth interview with J. Allard serves only to obfuscate what the strategy is here.

I confess to previously being excited about the Zune. I anticipated a strategy to use the multiple ubiquitous Microsoft platforms to gain leverage in the mobile platform. I figured the same move was inevitable with the Xbox.

Microsoft used to be able to make moves like this without effort and has a decent rap sheet with regulatory agencies to prove it.

I don’t know where this leaves us. I do know one thing. I want the evil, menacing monopoly Microsoft back. Microsoft used to be so money. Microsoft used to be the Big Bear with the Big Claws. Now, it reminds me of Mike, the depressed loser from Swingers…

TRENT (to Mike): You’re so money, you don’t even know it.

MIKE: Please, don’t mess with me right now…

TRENT: We’re not messing with you…

TRENT: You’re like this big bear with claws and fangs…

SUE: … and big f*ckin’ teeth…

TRENT: … and teeth… And she’s like this little bunny cowering in the corner…

SUE: …shivering…

TRENT: … And you’re just looking at your claws like “How do I kill this bunny?”…

SUE: …You’re just poking at it…

TRENT: … Yeah. You’re just gently batting it around… and the rabbit’s all scared…

SUE: … and you got big claws and fangs…

TRENT: … and fangs… and you’re like “I don’t know what to do. How do I kill this bunny?” With *this* you don’t know how to kill the bunny, do you know what I mean?

SUE: … you’re like a big bear.

TRENT (pulling him aside, dead serious) Now when you talk to her, I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie that everyone’s pulling for. I want you to be the guy in the rated R movie who you’re not sure if you like.

-Swingers (1995)

I want the R rated Microsoft to come back.

And Brown? Am I only one that thinks the Brown Zune is fugly?

I am long Microsoft.


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  1. And what happened to the Walmart music store and ‘Plays for Sure’?

    It all looks like a big yawn to me, the Zune device is too big, the Zune service too restrictive, too many ‘gotchas’. My guess is they can’t understand why their media services keep flopping, and an analyst suggested a rebranding. iTunes is catchy, you need a single syllable name, Tune, Bune, Cune, Dune, Fune, Gune… Zune!

    Personally I prefer ‘Chune’, or maybe ‘EyeChunes’ :-)

    As for Apple’s effort, when they launched iTunes it had the advantage of ‘sucking less’ than previous music stores. That was possible because previous music stores totally-utterly-sucked-donkey-balls. They don’t have this advantage this time, the restrictions on use and playback means it has no special advantage.

    I think the next big hit will be Yahoo if they can convince the record companies to drop the DRM in place of the Frauenhof watermarking system (which could work with movies too), failing that I note the continued rise of independants offering sans-DRM music and programming.

    Note also the recent attack on the MPAA rating system is also relevent here, since its part of the big-studio locking on movie distribution:

    Posted by Not Important | September 17, 2006, 11:13 AM
  2. Those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

    This is exactly the same process that happened with audio/MP3/Ogg etc. The first MP3 players were computers. Eggheads with thick rimmed glasses fashonied thier computers into appliances into packages that could be stuffed into various places (ie the EM-PEG player) in many respects a BIG in car early ipod, superior to anything in it’s day. Flash players like the Rio and scored of imitators came out.

    Many early tools for ripping CDs to MP3s came out, pirate services (the original Napster) for distributing those MP3s came out to exploit the internet’s now growing bandwidth. In 2000 a 3 megabyte MP3 file actually was a bandwidth hog for the internet.

    Enter Apple, come up with a 10 gigabyte player near capable of storing ALL of a person’s CD collection, offer them easy to use software to rip thier collection and offer them a cheap easy download service (99c a song). And let them take thier music anywhere, even the car. The record industry didn’t destroy pirate music filesharing for the masses, Apple did.

    Fast forward almost 10 years later (after all the first MP3 players came out in the late 90’s)

    Bandwidth has improved, Digital rights management (which MP3’s spawned) has crippled the recording/movie industry’s ability to cleanly distribute thier content without fear of piracy. And the thick rimmed pirates thrive distributing Television, Movies, and other content using filesharing tools honed to perfection (after the earliest filesharing tools originated to distribute smaller MP3’s in the old days). Now advanced tools like Bittorrent can deliver whole DVD’s.

    The Thick rimmed crowd even has a buch of media players that will play thier movie format DIVX many from Japan and China, some hack thier Xboxes and install X Box Media Center. Some use thier computers the way people used to use thier computers in the old days to listen to MP3’s.

    And in walks Apple with the same formula. Give people an easy to use box, to attach to thier picture viewing device (Television) not thier computer. Let them download movies and television, for a reasonable price $2 for television episodes (ok maybe a bit pricey). and $10 for a movie.

    New DRM issues since MP3’s are a bit of an issue though. No matter, you ARE Disney/MGM/Buenavista start there…. But what about competition?

    Your only REAL competition in this regard? Microsoft? Of course not, don’t be silly, (Microsoft has been truly stifled in it’s ability to capitalize on the internet, which is amazing since everyone uses thier browser). No, your competition, is the only other electronics manufacturer coming out with a content delivery device like yours. The only other electronics manufacturer that OWNs it’s studio, like you essentially do. SONY….. Sony will try to enter this arena with the PS3. But the danger for Sony is thier own greed (Remember ATRAC?)

    All Apple has to do is make thier product easier to use than Sony’s, more beautiful, and beat Sony to the punch. Hmmm Has Apple ever done this before?

    Posted by Ramuk | September 18, 2006, 12:29 AM
  3. Those who assume history simply repeats itself are doomed. It isn’t that simple.

    “Nothing is static. Everything is changing. Everything is falling apart”

    – Fight Club

    Posted by Andrew Schmitt | September 18, 2006, 5:28 AM
  4. Notice this:

    Disney trying out an unprotected MP3 album. Although they don’t mention it, it almost certainly is using the Frauenhof watermarking system, because thats what Yahoo are trying out.

    Perhaps one of your readers is a Disney person. :)

    Next up, I want the end of the coup in Thailand, the King released and democracy restored.

    Posted by Still Not Important | September 20, 2006, 4:07 AM
  5. I’m sure you mean Fraunhofer (the German R&D center that also developed MP3 originally I think and didn’t make any money off it ;-)) instead of Frauenhof.

    Posted by Thommy | September 25, 2006, 11:28 AM
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