New Zune

The new Zunes proves Microsoft can do things right.  The original Zune™, a portable audio player, launched in November 2006 and had a 30GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD).  The new Zunes which arrive in November 2007 will include a 4GB and 8GB Flash Memory Model and a larger 80GB HDD Model.

The Original Zune (now called the Zune 30) was never well received.  Though Microsoft has sold over 1 million of them, it only managed to to achieve a very small 3% market share lagging well behind Apple’s iPod™ and Sandisk’s MP3 Players.  Many called it too large, other claimed it was ugly.  The software had issues at first, and the DRM that departed from Microsoft’s PlaysForSure™ technology was widely criticized  Many requested additional formats and the feature to sync with Windows Media Center recorded TV.  The lack of Videos on the Zune Marketplace was also criticized.

However the Zune 30 did have is plus points, including the ability to convince me to pick it up.  It’s doubleshot plastic case proved to be more durable then the competition and less prone to scratches.  Additionally it was more feature packed then the iPod (its direct competitor also featuring a dedicated software and store) with limited WiFi songs sharing, built in FM radio, picture sync, and user changeable backgrounds.  In addition it had a larger screen more apt for video viewing and most reviews gave it a higher score than the iPod in sound quality.

So why all the negativity?  Well for one the departure from PlaysForSure™ was a well worth criticism, but in all fairness to truly compete with the iPod/iTunes experience this was a must.  In addition, iPod had created a cult following the has a well equipped bashing machine that criticizes the competition (especially Microsoft) even when the competition is innovating and lowering prices by competition.  Further more it is Microsoft and apparently has become hip to criticize them while praise the apparent goodness of Apple.

I couldn’t disagree more than I do with this idiotic bashing.  Having worked with Microsoft on XP Beta, XP SP1 Beta, Vista Beta, and now Vista SP1 Beta, I can attest that Microsoft truely values the opinions of its userbase.  Its not always easy, considering Windows Vista has sold 60 Million copies since November 2006.  Apples entire OSX base is less than or around 20 Million and it took them 5 years to sell 100 million iPods.  Yesterday’s announcement proves my point more than anything and that is why I’m excited to dive into it.

The Zune will now have an expanded line with 4, 8, 30, and 80GB Models.  The new models which are the 4, 8, 80GB Models will be called the Zune 4, Zune 8, and Zune 80.  They will including all the features of the Zune 30 but will introduce Wireless Syncing, new video formats (H.264 & MPEG4), new Zune Marketplace, new Zune firmware, DRM free music, music video downloads, podcast support, and smaller and lighter (lighter than the iPod 80GB Classic).

The Zune 30 hardware will stay the same.  Now if this was Apple, the announcement would end right here. I’d say a big portion of their 100 Million sales is people upgrading for new features and of course hardware failure.  But the Zune 30 will get the new firmware that will support all the new features of the new Zunes.  So for me, I don’t have to spend more money to keep upto date and can keep using the same Zune with new software on my PC and on my Zune.  It proves that Microsoft cares about the original Zune customer and that you don’t need expensive new hardware to move forward.

Will the Zune succeed?  Only time will tell but there is a lot of positive buzz for Microsoft and the Zune on the internet right now and they are stepping in the right direction.  I know I don’t regret buying the Zune at all and am looking forward to the new features including DRM free music, music video downloads, and new video formats!

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